How are you doing?

I worked for the university during most of my college career, but during the summer before my freshman year, I worked for one month at Chuck E. Cheese.

I greeted people at the cash register, stocked the salad bar, and closed several times a week. This involved putting away all the food that sat on the salad bar ice basin, which was drained nightly. One night, the salad bar drainage pipes got clogged, and a mix of water and various foods had to be scooped out of the top of the ice basin. Two hours after my shift usually ended, I drove back to campus.

To soothe my irritation at the sense of lost evening time, I went to the convenience store by my dorm and got a sandwich and a soda. It was close to midnight. The lady behind the counter asked me, with a skeptical look prepared, as I stood there sweating, hair disheveled, and visibly exhausted in an untucked Chuck E. Cheese polo shirt:

"How are you doing?"

A pause.

"Shitty," I replied.

She laughed, and I smiled.

"Thanks for being honest!"

I hadn't realized in that moment the favor my authenticity had done for her. I was aware of my condition - I had been up to my elbows in dirty water and leftover food - and I was definitely not doing ok in that moment. The discomfort I felt was temporary, but she cared enough to ask.

I responded to her honestly, and instead of asserting that I was doing just fine taking care of myself - because I'm strong, you know? - I established a connection that she could understand and appreciate.

I think that being present with someone is the best thing you can do. Connecting with someone to the best of your ability is the best way to stay grounded. This story was funny, but many people - young and old - don't have a sandwich, soda and Aeon Flux on DVD to go home to.

Please, in this dark time, do the same for your neighbors. Ask them, genuinely and sincerely, how they're doing. Look them in the eye. Sometimes they're tired for a short evening, and other times they may carry burdens of a lifetime. You have no idea what someone is trying to survive through.

We're all in this together, and I believe we're here to help each other.


Published June 09, 2018