Guet Shot: Hi. Bye.

By freelance columnist and author Jonathan Pollard

“There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse.” – John Locke, English philosopher

As steeped in obligatory deference as it may appear to be, this tradition of drawn-out farewells at social gatherings is – at best – one inflated mannerism devoid of reason.

To the traveling companions of these over-zealous socialites, the wretched souls chomping at the bit to flee whilst trapped in their own private forced-smiling hells, take solace: you are the mouth-a-blowin’ innocents in this moment of irrationality.  You are the casualties caught in the verbal crosshairs of two (or more) consumed windbags.

The custom itself leaves much to the intellect, since these social adieus often come at the expense of interrupting legitimate external exchanges.  The disrespect is subtle, but it’s real.

“Excuse me, sorry to intrude.  You look to be engaged in stimulating dialogue and at the risk of distracting you, I’d just like to say that I’m leaving.  Nothing else.  I have no other point to make.  As you were.  Cheerio.”  It’s the sort of disguised vein of which we are all at fault; the type, ironically, analogous to the brand perfected by overt egoists who routinely refer to themselves in the third person and think of themselves in the first.

“May I have your attention please – Everyone look at me and stop talking.  Mr. J. Pollard has decided to get a drink of water.  Thank-you and please hold your applause until I actually beginning sautéing out.”

We’re hypocrites, one and all.  If only we could hear ourselves.

Cross the proverbial heart and hope to die, when the ‘Hi. Bye.’ interjection surfaces, it usually shadows an involved ‘Getting to know you/How’s the family?’ discussion.  Thus, the ‘Hi. Bye.’ is relegated a mere postscript, a cordial gesture.  It’s unnecessary, yet obligatory – symbolic of a tonsil-adjusting burp following a few chugs of a carbonated drink.

And that’s all the ‘Hi.  Bye.’ really is, of course.  It’s a throat-clearer.  Not only is it an unconscious self-glorifying pronouncement carrying the potential for derailing legit discourse, it’s often an unwitting display of authoritative one-upmanship.

“Hi.  I’m leaving.  Bye.”  (And loosely redundant.)  Those are the rules, and there will be no further discussion, at least in my presence.

No meat in this linguistic sandwich.

Why buy a book without pages?  Why bother browsing a menu which lacks an entree, appetizer, or even beverage selection?  Why watch television commercials without an actual program to look forward to?

It’s senseless.  And yet, in the midst of this common sense, the ‘Hi.  Bye.’ not only endures, it thrives.  What’s paradoxical is that while this autocratic blurb is intended to be the quickest farewell imaginable, it also has the capacity to be – as the aforementioned traveling companions can affirm – merely a prelude.  Both culprits, seemingly, share an explicit understanding that they will meet again and pick up where they left off.

“Excuse me, sorry to intrude.  I’m leaving now.  Bye-bye.  Oh, don’t forget to towel dry the punch bowl when you’re finished.  It’s crystal, and you don’t want streaks.  And you’re right on the money about Phillip – Marsha is all wrong for him.  You know, just the other day I saw her …”

It’s as though the ‘Hi.  Bye.’ ushers in a kind of word (topic) association diverse enough to perplex even the most qualified of clinical psychologists.  And the hand-waving portrait of a departing person opens the floodgates to a Rorschach test reaching similar proportions.

Perhaps it’s fitting to cut loose the apron strings and use the ‘Hi.  Bye.’ as an appendage to the original discussion, thereby avoiding further obligations.  No re-visitation necessary, literal or otherwise.

“Hi, Tom.  What’s shakin’?  Hey, is Little Billy still acting up?  Listen, before you say anything, I feel your pain.  I gotta split in a sec, but lemme just let ya in on a little secret before I go.  Maybe he just needs to be let loose on the town – you know, to sow his salivating little wild oats.  Anyway, gotta go.  My old lady wants me to scoop some cotton swabs on the way home.  They’re on sale this week, you know.  Bye.”

Here, the phrase before you say anything sets up the Billy question as rhetorical.  He cares more about his parting advice than he does about the kid.  But that’s okay.  The speaker’s in control of the exchange and his follow-up I gotta split in a sec serves to politely reinforce to Tom that it’s essentially a ‘Hi.  Bye.’

Yet, this particular example does include a little beef – the advice.  And it’s this meat in the proverbial hoagie, this supposed entre on the lingual menu board that provides the only – the only – reasonable justification behind the immensely popular yet irrational ‘Hi.  Bye.’

Jonathan Pollard can be reached at