A large percentage of conversations I end up holding with people I do not know well goes like this.
Me: HelloThis works with a multitude of questions: "How are you" "How have you been" "How is life" etc etc.
Them: Hello, what's up?
Me: (thinks for a long time, comes up blank) nothing much, you?
Them: oh about the same.
The problem is, you can't reply with anything that is actually occurring in your life without sounding pompous/pretentious/damned depressing. Try replying with "I realized I live a boring life" it's simply too personal as a response to an automatic question and you usually get a "... that.. sucks?"
Replies I've tried out were "I've been better, been worse too" (apparently too depressing.) and "I don't know that's a really hard question" (Took too much explaining) "Eh" ("Oh what's wrong?" Nothing.) or "I've been spending a lot of my time thinking about beards" ("....what?")
Involuntary responses are also irritating, because it shows people really aren't listening.
"Have fun at your birthday!"What? Yes I suppose I might have fun at my birthday 5 months later. Thanks for actually paying attention to my sincere desire for you to have fun, or anything else people have to say.
"Thanks, you too"
"Have fun at your birthday!"This wouldn't be such a problem if "Hello, I've been watching you for a while, and I've noticed you like to wear shorts" was less of a creepy statement, and more of an acceptable greeting and a foray into an interesting discussion on the phenomena of wearing shorts in cold weather.
"Oh I wasn't paying attention to what you were saying because I was too preoccupied with thinking about how awesome my birthday will be!"
Alas, one day, people will be interesting.