My column a couple of weeks ago was about things people say that put me on edge. Well, it turns out I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to hear “You don’t remember me, do you?” or “You look tired.”
“I’m so bored” and “I’m so busy” are other verbal irritants.
The e-mails came in thanking me for bringing this to people’s attention and some wanted to add to the list. The hands-down winner: “No problem.”
My friend Annie Calovich explained it perfectly. “Saying ‘Thank you’ is the positive to the negative, ‘No problem,’ which I hate to hear. There are specific times when ‘No problem’ makes sense, but it has become a replacement for ‘You’re welcome’ and leaves an impression as negative as it sounds,” Annie said.
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Anita Allard agreed: “I already know that it’s no problem! Hearing this response is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard,” she said.
They’re right. It happens so often with servers in an eating establishment, whether it’s a sit-at-the-counter hamburger joint or a five-star restaurant. The diner says “thank you” for whatever, and the server replies “no problem.” Well of course it’s no problem, it’s part of the job.
When Oraleen Urban thanks a person, she likes to hear “You’re welcome,” not “Don’t mention it.” She says she always wonders what they’re really thinking when they respond that way.
Special-education teacher Charlene Manning agreed with my husband that “I’m bored” is not something that should be said, adding it implies you are the one who should entertain the bored person.
Pam Hesse is happy so many people she knows are grateful, but she’s tired of hearing “I am so blessed.”
“I think they should instead say, ‘I am so thankful for my health, good fortune, great family, steady job or whatever,’” Pam said. Before thanking me for letting her “rant,” she said: “I just don’t think God picks and chooses who he will bless.” A couple of other people wrote that they were tired of hearing how blessed some of their friends say they are.
It was the “You look tired” phrase that caught Diane Wahto’s attention. She remembers the first time someone said that to her she was so stunned by the remark she couldn’t come up with a response. “When I mentioned this to my husband as I was reading your column, he suggested that the next time someone says that to me I should say, ‘I think you’re projecting.’”
Jim Smith of El Dorado e-mailed, all in capital letters I might add, that he was happy to have a chance to “vent.” He says hearing “It is what it is” drives him crazy. “It isn’t always what it is, and what the heck does that mean anyway?” he said. Also, if Jim asks how you’re doing, don’t respond “Living the dream.”
I have found that puzzling too sometimes. That answer can mean several things. The person might be sincere and feels they are right where they want to be, but usually it’s said with a sarcastic edge.
Of course after the column ran, lots of people would grin and ask if I remembered them, or said I looked tired or told me they were bored. That’s just fine. At least I knew they had read the column.
Maybe it’s all part of this very, very casual world that the words we learned as toddlers – “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” – have gone the way of other proper etiquette points.
And speaking of casualness: I was seated for dinner recently when five nicely dressed women, ages ranging probably from 70 to 80, were seated at the table nearby. The young man who was their server smiled and asked, “What can I bring you guys to drink?” Guys? There wasn’t a guy in sight. Ladies! Can you say ladies? I wondered if my desire to thump him on the head was due to my age. But when I told a teenager what he said, she agreed that he should have said “ladies” or just “what would you like to drink” and not call them anything.
All right, I’m through venting about verbal pet peeves. Just don’t call me a guy.
Reach Bonnie Bing at firstname.lastname@example.org.