I love the holidays! The Christmas spirit is wonderful, but it has its downside and I try so hard not to let things bother me. People seem to think they can get in your grill. Take the other day, for instance, when I was in line at ShopKo. I had filled my shopping cart with some nice Christmas gifts, plus a little self-indulgence—a Slim Whitman Greatest Hits Vol. 3 CD—to celebrate having gone off medication a week earlier. A septuagenarian gentleman in line behind me caught my eyes as I was grabbing some Chiclets and Gummi bears off the checkout shelf. “For the kiddies, huh?” he said with a smile. I almost lost it, but tried to maintain my cool. Just because I had on my festive green and red sweater from Sears didn’t give him an open invitation to invade my space. When I get into situations like this, I quickly imagine myself as Rousseau in a boat on a small Swiss lake tranquilly looking at nature. It calms me down a little. I hesitated, not wanting to dignify his obtrusive comment with a response.
I decided to employ my conflict resolution skills and figured sarcasm would be the best way to diffuse the situation. Turning to him, I said, “Thank you for that unsolicited remark, indeed for paying an inordinate amount of attention to my affairs, however mundane.” He looked away, but I continued. “You know, most people wouldn’t take the time to ask such questions or attempt to make inane small talk in passing.” He started to move his cart to another checkout line. I ignored the rude gesture and followed him. “But of course you’re not ‘most people,’ are you? Surely not, you’re a kind-hearted, neighborly sort whose self-appointed mission in life is to spread Christmas cheer with a self-righteous smirk and in a reassuring avuncular manner.” One of the checkout ladies blurted something into the store loudspeaker, but I couldn’t make it out because I was busily engaged in a Sunday school lesson on manners. “Why, I’m prepared to give you my life story, if you’re so interested. How nice it is to have someone pry like this into one’s affairs! Why don’t we have a kaffeeklatsch and share family photo albums while I tell you about the ‘kiddies’ and you in turn impart to me some endearing anecdotes about raising children? Wouldn’t that be nice?” As a kind of exclamation point, I grabbed a 5-pack of black socks lying in his shopping basket and tossed it like a basketball into a woman’s cart as she passed by. “Granted, such wanton disregard for other people usually impresses me,” I continued, “but you have set a new precedent for unwarranted meddling. I believe a Congratulations! is in order here, my friend.”
At this point, I was relieved to see a store clerk approach and hopefully usher this man out of the store. “Sure, someone might have mistaken your friendly query for nosiness, an effort to fill your vacuous life with the business of others and thus provide a more amusing preoccupation of time—however selfish and painful for people who aren’t you—whilst you await the sweet release of death.” I tried to make this last point while security was escorting me out the door! Whether or not I have a restraining order is not the issue at hand. Nor am I telling this story merely as a reminder to carry mace pepper spray at all times. The point I’m making is that, like you, I find it difficult to enjoy Christmas holidays with such human refuse walking around, butting into people’s business and spoiling it for the rest of us.