In my entry about conversation starters, I neglected to mention a nation-wide event that occurs between Christmas and Australia Day. This event is, of course, New Year’s Eve. While I forgot to write about it, I certainly did not neglect to take advantage of it as a topic for conversation. Whenever I felt it was appropriate, I would pipe up, ‘So, are you doing anything for New Year’s Eve?’
The customers who were buying multi-pack soft drinks and bags upon bags of potato chips would answer that they were having a party. I didn’t bother to question those who bought over a kilo of sausages and bottles of sauce.
One man I came into contact with on Friday who I prompted for his New Year’s Eve plans gave a very personal response, which led to a rather involved discussion…
‘So, do you have any big plans for New Year’s Eve?’ I asked, with my usual, customer-friendly smile pasted across my face. The man in front of me was thin, with gnarled grey hair and a solemn expression.
‘Ah, I don’t believe in making a big deal out of New Year’s’, he said dismissively.
‘Oh?’ I asked innocently.
He leaned forward and held me in a steady gaze. ‘Nah. See, the way I look at it, every day should be a cause for celebration.’
I looked up while scanning his purchases. ‘That’s an interesting perspective. But isn’t it good that there’s this one day of the year when you can really let loose?’
The customer stood firm. He seemed intent on making his philosophical case. ‘Yeah, well, some people are just depressed all the time and they simply spend this one day feeling differently, but I think we should all treat every day as something special. We should be grateful for every day that we wake up and realize we’re still alive. Every day should be a celebration.’
In an even voice, I continued more insistently. ‘I agree. But not every day has a public holiday following it during which you can sleep off your hangover or whattnot,’ I laughed gamely.
He held fast to his opinion. ‘No, but we should treat every day as a gift and not just think of this on one day of the year.’
Our horns were locked and we were each pushing forward. I mentally searched for another counterpoint. Finally, I gestured to my right at the stack of multi-pack drinks pressed up against the wall and replied, ‘Well, it’s a good thing that we have occasions such as New Year’s Eve, or else we’d never get rid of all those Cokes!’
He looked to his left. ‘Yes, well, it’s a good day for retailers, but that’s about it.’
I smiled congenially. Debate over. He held out some notes and I returned to him some change. As he departed, I wryly wished him a good new year.
So the debate had ended in a stalemate. In a way, I think the argument was actually moot as it seemed that he and I were pushing two different things. I was talking about an occasion on which you can party hearty and participate in a public bonding session over the dawning of a new year and he was arguing about something more existential. Alas, I think we were both right. New Year’s Eve is just another day, depending on how you choose to spend it. It is simply the case that NYE offers a state-sanctioned freedom to piss the night away without the need to show up in a clean shirt at work the next day.
Or, in my case, a clean shirt and an ever-chipper attitude.