"Be well" calls for something dramatic. "And also with you," followed by a reverent head bow. I didn't think fast enough the first time and ended up answering with a noise that sounded like I was gargling salt water.
Her greeting stuck in my head as I left the store. "Be well." Such a strange thing to say, although, really not. I let it go by the time I got to my car. She's 18. She's experimenting. Back when I was a teenager bored with writing the same-old "Have a nice day" on the back of restaurant receipts, I used to come up with far lengthier things to scribble. "It's been a pleasure to serve you. Please come back to the Alpine at Eastwood! Christa." I prided myself on a unique, handwritten pleasantry with each purchase of a Yo! Burger.
She did it again. A few days later. Receipt, smile, then: "Be well." This wasn't experimentation. This was a THING. This is how she talks. She's AP English-ing the people shopping for Gold Bond and Neti Pots. This is clearly a one-woman crusade, I decided. She probably also insists on responding "I'm well, thank you" instead of the customary grunting of "Good, you?" Now it was getting interesting.
Today I was picking up a prescription (and a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch) at the pharmacy -- the opposite side of the store. One of my favorite kids was working. He's probably in his 20s, has messy hair. Once I wrote some fan fiction in my head about how he only dates women that he meets while they are filling birth control prescriptions on his watch. Now I sometimes forget that it isn't true.
He rang me up, handed me my bag and said: "Be well."
Now this REALLY means something, and it's something big. It's more than a one-woman crusade or AP English or the socially acceptable way to talk to Gold Bond fans.
A FEW THINGS THIS MIGHT MEAN
1. The obvious answer is that there was recently an all-employee meeting and someone from corporate drove in from Deerfield, Ill., to spread the message of "Be well" among the store's cashiers.
"'Have a nice day' isn't going to cut it," the suit said. "These people are at a drug store. There is a good chance they're sick. When you say 'Have a nice day' you're basically saying 'Shut up about your eczema and try to have some fun for once.'"
2. The dewy-eyed 20-something in the pharmacy is sleeping with the young woman at the front of the store. It's still pretty hush-hush because management frowns on inner-store relationships. But someone savvy is going to figure out that Romeo has picked up the cute clerk's quirk. It was probably fun at first, getting the employee discount on the cherry-flavored heat-activated massage oil. But you can only do that so long before a person's linguistic ticks seep into your pores.
3. "Be Well" is the new "No Worries." "No worries" has always sounded awkward to me. Dreadlocky and vegan. I think I've said it twice, and both times I felt like I was wearing a verbal Halloween costume.