Hattie’s View: What are you doing here?

I’m sure most folks have asked themselves, “What am I doing here?”

By Ellen Coffey

You may have even asked someone “What are you doing here?”

Today this column addresses the question from a more serendipity perspective.

Once, sometime around 1910, Grandma Hattie threatened to punish her four year old son, James, for smoking Rabbit-tobacco. 

He ran and hid under the house. He knew he was in trouble because this was not his first offense. 

Grandpa smoked tobacco occasionally, after the young’uns were asleep, or so he thought.

Since Grandma knew where James was hiding, she scolded loudly, “I’m gonna get you James Marion, and I will surely deal with you.”

When Grandpa returned from the fields, Grandma Hattie met him at the door.

She whispered, “I caught James smoking again. He’s been hiding under the house all day.”

Grandpa hatched a plan. He crawled under the house, where he spotted James in the direction of the chimney. 

“Is that you Pa?” the tiny voice asks, adding “What are ‘you’ doing here? Did Maw catch you smoking too?”

It was hard not to laugh.

After a man to man confession, Grandpa responds “Well son, let’s go and wash up for supper. We can talk about our smoking sins tomorrow.” 

So, James question “What are you doing here?” became a family joke. Every time I hear the question “What are you doing here?” I’m reminded of James’s Smoking story.

You may have noticed that same question, “What are you doing here?” 

It’s a classic line in TV and movie scripts.

So why use those exact words every time?

When they could say: “I didn’t expect to see you here.”


“Fancy meeting you here.” 


“Gee, I never expected to run into you here.”


“You’re the last person I expected to see here. ” 

Why don’t you keep that question in mind the next time you settle in to watch a movie?

I bet a box of hot buttered popcorn that you’ll hear that familiar question “What are you doing here?”

Seems Hollywood (even Disney) can’t make a movie or record a sitcom anymore without it.

Like I said, it’s in all the flicks. 

I promise, y’all.