Yes, I feel fine. Why do people keep asking me that?!?
18.06.2009 - 18.06.2009 20 °C
Walking into the office this morning, I got the usual greeting from one of my co-workers who had already made it into the office.
“Yeah, good,” I reply. “You alright?”
“Yeah, ta,” she said.
I’ve gotten into the groove now, but when I first arrived in the UK, this question and its variations confused me. These variations include “Are you alright?” “alright?” or “alright, mate?”
This question is used as a greeting here, much as North Americans would use “how are you?” For a North American first getting over here to the UK though, the question “are you alright?” sounds more dire than a friendly greeting.
In North America, “are you alright?” is what you say to someone who looks like they aren’t alright. It is a question saved for those who look deathly ill with the plague or have a two-inch cooper pipe sticking out of their chest. After bouncing off the hood of a speeding car, it is the kind of thing someone says to you as you lie on the pavement, your legs bent at angles not normally possible with our god-given joints. “Dear God, are you alright?” they will say, before screaming into the crowd, “is anyone a doctor? Someone call 911!”
The first time I was asked the question, it was a very different experience than my smooth greeting this morning. It was up in Sheffield, and one of the client staff said asked me as I first arrived at the office in the morning. “Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yes, fine. Why, don’t I look alright?” I responded. I figured if someone was asking if I was alright, then I must look sick.
The poor girl looked confused. Basically, she had said hello to me, and I was challenging why she said hello. “Umm, no, you look fine,” she mumbled. For the rest of the morning she stared intently at her computer, only occasionally glancing over my way nervously, they way one might keep an eye on the serial killer sitting next to you.
I’ve gotten used to the question now, and don’t worry that I must look sickly each time it is posed to me. That’s good, because it has just been announced that the Swine Flu cannot be contained in Birmingham where I am working now, and that the health services here are now moving into the mitigation phase of they pandemic plan. If I was still interpreting the question “are you alright?” as meaning I looked ill, I would spend all my time up here figuring that the Swine Flu had gripped me.