30 September 2009

Howdy

There seems to be a lot of hostility in the Battalion about people not following Aggie traditions. There are people who complain about people walking on the MSC grass, people who complain about their inability to disturb their fellow diners with loud chants, and people who just plain think A&M students are not following traditions enough. Which is, considering the number and variety of absolutely stupid traditions here, hilarious.

Yesterday's issue of the Battalion had a large article addressing people saying or not saying "Howdy" to each other. No, I'm not kidding. Apparently it was a slow news day. When I walked out of the Blocker building after class today, someone had written "Howdy" and "Say Howdy" all over the sidewalks. I find the tradition quite bizarre because the reasoning behind it is silly:
Technology contributes to the decline of "howdy," but it is not at the heart of the problem. A mentality of suspicion is being imported to Aggieland, whether we want it or not.

Our tradition of "howdy" is under attack by this suspicion, but we can't let it keep us from holding conversations with people we don't know. That's the only way to make new friends in completely new circles.

Aggies may be slowly losing our sense of community and not even know it yet. When we ask why a fellow student would want to talk to us, we forget that we're all members of a family; be we undergrad or graduate students, members of the Corps or transfer students, fraternity brothers or sorority sisters. Suspicion of your fellow Aggies in a simple conversation is not part of the Aggie Spirit.
I think the people on this campus must be deluded; going to a large university is not like being in a family. This is not a small community, and it is only in small communities that people can (and rightly so) feel comfortable with all of its members. I have no doubt that some people at A&M are assholes, simply because if you gather 50,000 people together, some of them will be assholes. Frankly, I don't trust that A&M's admissions board is capable of weeding out douchebags, misogynists, rapists, racists, homophobes, and PUAs. So, I'm not going to be friendly to every person who accosts me on the sidewalk there. And acting as though I should is puzzling to me, because there are ways of making friends in college that do not include striking up a conversation with strangers on the sidewalk.

This is not about friendliness at all, but about politeness and faking a community feeling that (presumably, since not that many people say "Howdy") many people on campus do not feel. The author of this article seems to be attacking people like me, who do not feel as though our campus is at all like a unified community. And instead of trying to figure out why that is, he instead attacks that feeling and demands that we accept the addresses of strangers. This is troubling because, while I place little value in school spirit and being an "Aggie" and thus have no trouble ignoring such a demand, some people may feel obligated to accept this advice because they do value school spirit. And, despite what the author of this article believes, campus is not always a safe space, and Aggies are not always going to be principled and harmless conversationalists. While most of the time I ignore people saying "Howdy" to me because I think they're annoying, and not because I think they're dangerous, it is not as though a campus environment is free from violence. It's safer to trust your instincts when it comes to talking to strangers on campus, rather than trusting Aggie traditions. But I don't think they teach that at freshman orientation.

4 comments:

Roy said...

I said "Howdy" a lot to my friends and coworkers in Oklahoma. I really don't know why; it just became a favorite greeting of mine. One time my friend responded with, "Fine, thanks. How are you?" I was stunned--I had no idea "Howdy" was a question.

I guess it was originally "How do you do?" in which case I completely disagree with your assessment. The term immediately creates a communal space by inviting you to open up. Next time someone tells you "Howdy," answer the question! Truthfully! "I'm really irritated that you think by repeating that stupid word your connecting to some imaginary metaphysical entity called 'tradition.' How sad."

Cap'n Ganch said...

Nationally, "howdy" means what you said, Roy, but here at A&M it's not something you say to your coworkers, it's like our version of a secret handshake, except that the club has 50,000 members.

I don't mind people saying "howdy" to me on the sidewalk, but I won't usually respond, and I sure as hell won't initiate the "howdy"ing for the simple reason that I don't know them and have no illusions that I would ever get to know them anyway.

That might make me a bad Aggie (assuming I'm even considered an Aggie), but it also makes me comfortable.

Courtney said...

Cap'n Ganch is right about the meaning of "Howdy" here. If someone says "Howdy" to me on the sidewalk, and I reply with a half-hearted "good morning," or "hello," they eye me funny. That's not an appropriate response, and it marks me as not part of their community. I don't mind strangers saying hello to me, but Howdy is supposed to be a start to a conversation, not something to which I can simply smile and walk away.

Ryan said...

I'm a big fan of, "How's it going?" just to get through the awkward silence of passing someone on the sidewalk when you're the only two there and you can see them coming from like a mile away, so you have to acknowledge their presence or risk looking like a dick.

But, "Howdy?" Unless you're wearing a cowboy hat and a big 1970s belt-buckle, that's just creepy.