Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Very Merry Unchristmas

“Hey!” the man exclaimed suddenly. “We’re not spending that kind of money on that broad!”

As you may have guessed from the tone and inflection, it was Christmas Eve.

We were shopping in a nearby grocery when we heard the above and turned to find that the speaker was an agitated looking middle-aged man whose poor wife looked as if she desperately wished she were anywhere but here.

But such is the nature of a season that forces us to get in touch with the better angels of our nature. It’s a thankless task, and one that really doesn’t seem worth the bother. It’s a bit like holding your stomach in at the beach: after a couple of hours, you don’t give a damn anymore.

My friend Bob has even taken the concept of Lewis Carroll’s “unbirthday” an extra step and declared this year to be an Unchristmas. He’s let all of his friends and relatives know that he’s just not going to do anything this year and that once every two years is enough. I certainly can’t blame him. The endless traffic, the nightmare shopping, the awful music. It’s enough to test anyone’s good will towards men.

Even the wife has gotten fed up with A Christmas Carol. This is the Alistair Sim one I mean, the one where John Steed plays young Jacob Marley. This year, even Scrooge’s “There’s more of gravy than the grave about you!” didn’t stay her hand from the remote.

Still, one tries to swim with the tide in these matters and smile politely and nod one’s head when people wish you a happy holiday. The pain is momentary and over soon enough.

Certainly I was in a cheerful state of mind this Christmas Eve when I stopped into the local gas station for a pre-holiday fill-up. Having filled the tank, I marched inside to pick up a quart of motor oil to keep the Screwloosemobile happy.

At the counter, a short gentleman with long stringy hair that spun off from an enormous bald spot was arguing with the cashier.

“I want to give you this change,” he said. “I can pay how I want and I want one of my dollars back.”

“I don’t really need the change, sir,” the cashier replied nervously.

“I don’t care,” the man said, raising his voice. “I’m the customer! Remember that! I want one of my dollars back for this change and I can pay how I want. I’m the customer!”

He looked uncannily like The Penguin in the second Batman movie, even down to the body language.

Defeated, the woman accepted the change and gave the man back his dollar bill. You would have thought this might have ended it, but the lesson continued.

Moving towards the door, he harangued, “I’m the customer! I can do whatever I want! Remember that! I’m the customer!”

Now if he’d taken his money and left, I suppose I could have kept silent. But this continuing to natter on after he’d won, taking advantage of his position as “the customer” to do what he could to make the cashier feel small over a dollar’s worth of change was just too much.

I let my stomach out.

After the last confirmation that he was indeed “the customer,” I said loud enough for everyone in the store to hear, “And such an attractive one, too!”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m in no position to be making comments about other people’s physical appearance. And it was a cheap shot, certainly. But I was looking for a cudgel and that’s what came out.

There was a momentary silence. Then:

“Excuse me?” I could tell that he was still at the door and hadn’t moved towards me, thank goodness.

“I said, ‘Merry Christmas’,” I replied.

“Hey, man!” the voice shot back. “That’s uncool! You don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m the customer!”

“That’s uncool, dude!” I said.

There were a few snickers from the line that had accumulated behind me.

There was no reply as he left. Of course he was laying in wait for me when I returned to my car. I’d just managed to get the door open to get in when he marched over very purposefully and started again.

“Hey, man! That was uncool! You don’t know what happened! I’m the customer and…”

“Well,” I broke in as I slid into the driver’s seat, “I’m a customer, too, and I get to say whatever I want…man!” I closed the door and sped off.

It was another Christmas and everywhere the air was filled with cherubs, charity and good fellowship.

What was this talk about Three Wise Men?

I couldn't even find two.


Anonymous Jake LaMotta said...

You're lucky "the Dude" didn't give you a knuckle sandwich. Rather a smart-ass than a dumb-ass...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 1:30:00 PM  
Blogger Count Screwloose said...

Both of them are, of course, members of the Ass Family.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006 5:11:00 PM  

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