Friday, September 30, 2005

The question

"How'd ya do?"

Two acquaintances meet each other for the first time at Winn-Dixie. After the standard, "Hi!" and "How ya doing?" the next question has become standard etiquette.

"How'd ya do?"

It's the universal ice breaker. We all went through Katrina, it says. We all suffered in some way, even if it was just seeing what happened to other parts of your own town.

All that is a given. Now, I should ask about you personally. And Southern manners has come up with the phrase for all of us to use:

"How'd ya do?"

A group of us from The Sun Herald went to a Chinese buffet on Wednesday. Behind us walked in a woman who evidently was some kind of regular customer before the storm.

Within five seconds, the proprietress had asked the customer, "How'd ya do?"

The customer had lost her home. And the proprietress was able to inform her about her efforts to reopen her business.

This morning, an older gentleman in line with me at P.J.'s Coffee in Gulfport turned around and, after a couple of pleasantries, asked, "How'd ya do?"

I told him I wasn't here, nor did I even live here.

"Well," he drawled, "that's good for you."

"How'd you do?" I asked.

"My house is somewhere in the sound," he said.

The man was retired and in some way well-off. He had a good amount of money in stocks. But of course, that might be everything he has to live on for the rest of his life.

And now, his house is in the sound. And he's been trying to get a FEMA trailer delivered to his plot of land, close enough to the beach "you can hit a golf ball into the water from my front yard." But, he'll survive, he says.

Everyone wants to talk about what he has had to go through. But no one wants to be so impolite as to just start blabbing about his own difficulties.

So, when you visit, and you start meeting a few residents, remember that they all have a Katrina story. But they won't tell you what it is unless you ask:

"How'd ya do?"

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