This is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” if you believe Andy Williams, and I’m here to say that – as much as I love Andy – that’s the biggest load of bull I’ve yet heard.
This is probably the worst time of the year.
Apparently, the day after Thanksgiving is the start of this whole “good will towards Men” routine – the practice of pretending that we’re all nice and saintly, all so we can convert this last-minute niceness into some pretty decent Christmas swag. I remember as a kid how, suddenly, the nonsense my brothers and I tried to get away with all year was put aside for one month, all in hopes of scoring better (and more expensive) gifts under the tree, come Christmas morning. I’ve seen people who were pure jackasses all year long inexplicably become tolerant and helpful souls in the office – because they were hoping to see an extra zero on that end of the year bonus check. These people are “Hyde and Jekyll” types, that go from being obnoxious to nice, and somehow think that the rest of us are too dumb to see what they’re doing.
Instant “goodness” in hopes of some sort of gain. No gain, no nice – it’s that simple.
But what really kills me are those folks who do the opposite. These are true “Jekyll and Hyde” types who follow the trope correctly. This is the church lady who’s nice most of the year but has no problem punching someone in the throat if it’ll get her that last Elmo doll for her grandchild. Or the really nice guy from the grocery store – he’ll cut you nine-ways-from-Sunday if you even think about parking in that available space that he’s only just seen. I saw a man completely berate a customer because the latter – stupidly – said, “Hey, you have a Happy Holiday,” instead of insisting on a “Merry Christmas.” This, despite the fact that the customer was not Christian, did not celebrate Christmas, and frankly, was only trying to be polite. I listened as a woman proudly regaled me with a story about how she “lectured” a corporate headquarters about why they were wrong for not telling clients “Merry Christmas,” and how “only Christmas matters, dammit!” She was so freakishly happy over the fact that she spent over an hour crapping on someone else’s interpretation of the season.
I’m generally a nice guy, or so I believe. I have a simple philosophy: Don’t start crap, and there won’t be crap. Why should I go out of my way to start drama, especially if I’m not interested in entertaining it?
You worship differently from me? God bless you. Have fun and I’ll see you when you’re finished. You don’t celebrate Christmas? Cool – I have a gift for you, but I’m not going to force-feed you a holiday you don’t acknowledge. You don’t have the items in stock that I’d wanted to give as a gift? No problem; I’ll get something else.
It’s simple, really: Don’t be an ass. It’s so easy to be an ass, but it’s just as easy to avoid that entirely. What does it profit one to be an ass? What do you get out of it? Temporary satisfaction that you’ve put someone “in their place”? A momentary wind over some imaginary competitor? Vengeance?
All short-term gains with nothing tangible attached.
I was at Walmart where a woman was asking a worker about a particular music CD set. This was going to be this fantastic gift for her husband, as he was a huge fan of the artist in question. The only reason I knew what she was asking about was because I’d heard a review of the set by a radio station earlier in the week. The worker clearly did not want to be bothered by this woman – could have been fatigue or overwork – but made it known from the onset that he did not care. He directed her to a stack of CDs that he had to have known did not contain what she wanted; he was getting rid of her. So I went up to her.
“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhearing you. None of these are what you want, but I know who does have it – I just came from there, so I know they have at least two copies in stock.”
I told her; she tearfully (not kidding) thanked me.
“I’ve been looking everywhere for this; my husband will love it. He’s so hard to shop for.”
Twenty seconds and the problem was solved. She’s happy, I’m happy, and life goes on.
Was the Walmart guy an ass? Possibly. I don’t know what his day was like before hand. But I do know that he didn’t know what she was asking about and that he made no attempt to actually help her with her issue. So, yeah . . . he was an ass.
Personally, I don’t believe that there’s a special thirty-day window that requires us to be good and friendly towards one another, just so we can get stuff. I believe that we’re obligated to be good and friendly for the other eleven months, too. I don’t know; maybe it’s because I’ve grown up and the Santa-themed cartoons don’t work for me anymore. Maybe it’s because with my parents gone, I can’t remember a Christmas season that was celebrated the same way they did it. Maybe it’s because while I’m just as materialistic as ever, I don’t act as though my existence depends on me getting the latest gizmo.
Maybe I’m just weird that way.
I’m not judging anyone. Live as you see fit.
But if you really want to “remember the reason for the season” (oh, I hate that), then remember that this was originally to remind us of how we were supposed to live year round. If you can be good for thirty-days, you can do it for the other three-hundred and thirty-five, too.