I don’t like it when people ask “are you okay?” or “are you all right?” I always say “I’m fine, thanks” but what I really mean inside is “you’re bothering me.” They’re showing concern, of course, but deep down they’re offering a comment about themselves, i.e., “You look like you’ve been through something unsettling, resulting in a somewhat weakened or inebriated or dishevelled appearance that we find vaguely disturbing so…uhm, how’s your equilibirum?” My silent response: “I’m fine, thanks, or I was until you asked.” I prefer to hear, if anything, “So you’re good?” Those three words translate as “you seem well enough and even though you may be a teeny bit off-balance right now you’re strong enough to deal with it, I’m sure, so….you’re cool, right?”

I especially hate hearing “are you all right?,” partly because this is what the characters in those awful middle-class Irwin Allen disaster movies (The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, The Swarm) always asked each other at regular intervals, and so that’s an unwelcome association. But “are you okay?” rankles equally.

I began thinking about this when the crowd laughed last night during the final portion of The Sea of Trees. A team of Japanese park rangers comes upon a bloodied, bruised and battered Matthew McConaughey lying on the ground, and one of them says to McConaughey, in English, “Are you okay?” Which meant “are you conscious enough to respond to me?” but the crowd took it as one of the dumbest things anyone could say at such a moment. They were convinced by this point that The Sea of Trees was a no-go so they seized upon this line as an excuse to vent some of the frustration.