KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
As far as I’m concerned, the statute of limitations on happy new year runs out right about now. It is perfectly acceptable for people to greet each other with the traditional wish of good times for the year ahead while Christmas’s motor is still running, but after that the window of opportunity for happy new year is small. And right now, for most right-minded people, it’s closed.
The funny thing about new years wishes is that when they are delivered too late, they have an odd power to infuriate. I used to think it was just me, but this year I conferred with the curmudgeonly Husband and discovered that he too becomes irritated by people wishing him a happy new year when the crocuses are out. I don’t know why, but belated good wish rage only seems to apply to happy new year: I didn’t mind in the slightest when the man in the drivers’ licence office wished me a happy birthday a whole week after the event, and it doesn’t bother me at all if people are still wishing each other happy Christmas all the way to New Year’s Day. But wishing somebody a happy new year when they’ve already dispensed with a sizable chunk of it is just wrong: it suggests that you’ve so little going on in your life that you haven’t even properly entered 2015 yet, even though you’ve already lost the weight and paid the credit card bill.
It surely goes without saying that taxi drivers are the worst offenders in all of this. It is, at this time of year, quite possible to travel a considerable distance in a taxi without exchanging one word with the driver, only for him to wish you a happy new year as you exit his vehicle. I cannot begin to tell you how livid that makes me: in those three little words, it is as though this stranger is passing judgment on my life and my presumed inability to live it to the full. And then, because I am not brave enough to put this stranger straight as to my exciting, if largely imaginary life, I mumble a return of the greeting and in that moment, I not only confirm his damning opinion of me, but I begin to doubt myself if I’m really the vivacious, energetic person I imagine myself to be. This is why I generally avoid taking taxis at this time of year.
I cannot so easily stop going into shops though. Did anyone else notice, while Christmas shopping last year, that almost every till operator was wishing either a happy Christmas or a good day to every customer? It seems that in addition to unquestioningly adopting Black Friday as though it was as native to us as turnips, we’ve also now imported wholesale the American ‘have a nice day’ approach to retail. I presume you won’t be surprised to learn that sales assistants wishing me a nice day used to have the instant effect of ruining that day for me, though lately, I’ve become more sanguine about the practice – partly because being perpetually livid is exhausting, but also because I had a Damascene moment at a till in Bloomingdale’s in New York , where two sales staff completely ignored me in order to complete their rambling and frankly dull conversation. Eventually, when they were good and ready, one of them took my money and stonily advised me to have a nice day. The realization that this woman was quite possibly the rudest in the whole world made me rethink the whole have a nice day schtick, so that now, when people at tills ring it out for me, I assume they are doing so out of rudeness, not politeness, which actually cheers me up a little.
I am also cheered – perhaps surprisingly – by the ‘did you get everything you were looking for today?’ that now seem compulsory for checkout operators in a Certain Supermarket. Obviously, the request itself should irritate me hugely, but some of the staff have a delicious habit of following it up by trashing some aspect or other of their employers’ business acumen. If, for example, you complain about a product on sale being too close to its best before date, the women will usually agree that it’s a disgrace and then volunteer some other piece of delicious intel about shortcomings in the store. And so we bond over awfulness, and then I go home to eat my chicken – quickly – and to reflect on the failure of others. Provided nobody wishes me happy new year on my way out, now that’s a nice day.
Wishing someone a happy new year
when they’ve already dispensed with a sizeable chunk of it is just