Are you all right?
I seem to hear this too often these days. People ask me if I’m all right when I step off a curb, stop to get a drink of water on the trail, or when I walk up and even down the steps.
Am I getting too sensitive? Are my antennas up too far?
About ten years ago or so, I was on a small plane landing in a small airport. The passengers needed to walk down the stairs because there wasn’t a jetway.
“Are you all right walking down the stairs?” the flight attendant asked. I was flabbergasted.
“Yes, Are you all right? I replied. She grunted and moved to the next passenger.
Is Are you all right? the new verbal tick? You know, like Good to go, You’re fine and Have a nice day.
I finally realize that this was not a one-off comment but a common phrase from mostly women about twenty years younger than me. Occasionally, I hear it from men of the same age group. But I’ve never heard anyone come up to an older man and ask if he was all right unless he was bleeding on the trail.
If I’m going to write about this, I need to be very specific. I googled the phrase to see if this was a frequent problem. The only helpful website was The Wrong Planet, for people with neurological differences.
One typical answer on this website was:
Why would someone ask you this? Is this a standard greeting? I’ve had a few times when people asked me this, like a weird greeting, but I’m not sure why. It’s unexpected (by me) and I usually respond by freezing, which I guess just makes whatever I was doing seem worse.
Many on this site felt that neurotypical people used the phrase instead of Hello.
When I hiked with Family Nature Summits in the Lake Tahoe area, last month, the oldest women, other than me, were in their fifties. They were fit and slim, but not regular hikers.
Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air about the 1996 Mt. Everest climbing disaster, would call them treadmill fit. Great runners on even ground but if the trail has a few rocks, they would call the hike technical.
The clincher was on a long, steep uphill climbing out of Lake Tahoe to the parking area. The trail was hot and dusty. Halfway up, I stopped at a creek to wet my hat and bandanna. The water on my head felt delicious.
From behind, a woman from our group who had not yet talked to me the entire day, stopped and asked,
“Are you all right?”
“Are you all right? That’s the question. You’re the one behind me.”
Remember the bumper sticker usually on the back of VW Beetles?
I may be slow but I’m ahead of you.
I may not be ahead of you or in front of the group but I’m a plodder. Like a postage stamp, I stick with it until I get there.
While I was thinking about writing about this not-so-new phenomenon, I learned that Carroll Koepplinger, the Ageless Hiker, was going back to Europe to do a long-distance hike in France next month.
He’s almost 87 years old.
Have fun Carroll. I know you’ll be all right.