Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You. Have. a. Good. Day.

How long has it been that people you scarcely know have been telling you to have a good day? Twenty years doesn't seem long enough back in time. Perhaps thirty years. Perhaps even longer than that and you'd paid it no attention. Then, it began to sink in and you were of complete strangers telling one another to have a good day.

It probably makes you seem more a curmudgeon than you are in fact or spirit, but you neither go about hoping aloud that persons have a good day not take anything beyond rancor for having a good day wished upon you. As of now, you are most likely to hear the invocation when you thank the barista at Peet's for having prepared your latte with just the right frothy cap of foam. Even then, the response to your thanks or thank you, connected to the barista's name is have a good day. You take it as a given, even a generational thing. After all, on you end of the generational thing, a dude is a sports jacket, a wing collar, and a bowler hat, appearing in a saloon or stage coach stop in the old west.

As you absorbed your afternoon cup of coffee at Peet's, intent on some dialogue for the novel in progress, you heard a particularly sincere baritone voice opining that the way for an artist to make more sales was to directly engage prospective customers in conversations in which they were asked their opinions. After all, the baritone earnestness opined, the customer is a vital station in the acquisitions circuitry.

You wondered if he got that on line, from an art school, or from some MBA text. True enough, some of your writing is arguably "out" in the acquisitions circuitry, where a publisher may or may not chose to acquire it, publish it, and in a real sense, enter a limited partnership with you, but you chose to think of the projects as "in submission" or "out in submission," or merely "Out." The works may come back, which is not a good thing, find a home, which is a good thing, or be taken up, which means an opportunity to get into some serious check writing.

Seated in your favored corner nook, you more or less thought through the dynamics of the previous paragraph, then returned to a tricky scene in a novel that still has for you the sort of attraction the Sirens held for Odysseus. For a time, you were "in," which is to say immersed in the scene that occupied your attention. But you were soon wrenched away from it by that sincere baritone voice, hovering over your table. "Excuse me, sir," the baritone voice broadcast. "I'm conducting a survey. Which do you prefer? This?"He hitched his head toward an acrylic image in pastel shades, about two feet square, mounted on the wall somewhat above eye level to my right. "Or this?" he held what appeared to be a two square foot masonite covered with aqua and green acrylic, every bit as non-representational as the one on the wall.

Alas for discretion, you responded in reflexive irritation. "Quite frankly, neither," you said, immediate in your resolve to let the matter end there and return to the dialogue you were attempting to write, minimally aware of the fact that you would be hard put to cover either masonite square with anything resembling a painting. But the artist pursued his philosophy. "May I hear your thinking?" he asked, reminding you now more of a car salesperson than an artist. "They fight with one another," you said of the paintings "to determine which of the two is the least interesting."

"Ah," he said. "Ah." Then he said, "You have a good day." Not merely Have a good day, but the accusative, because that was how it sounded, "You have a good day."

You spent the remainder of that cup of coffee wondering how you would replicate such a statement in a way that conveyed your take of the artist's intent, which surely had as its basic mode, Fuck you. The best you have been able to come up with is "You," he said, "have a good day." This, you believe, translates to Have a good day while going forth and seriously fucking yourself in the process. It is that one tiny word in there, the you, that conveys the rancor, the animosity. To everyone else, the Have a good day is about as sincere as such things can be. Such is the nature of invective and wishing to saddle another with curses or irony or irony squared, which is sarcasm, that a simple three-letter word, you, becomes the trampoline to a leaping ironic jab.

When a New Yorker suggests, "Fuck you," he is saying "Let's have lunch."
When a Los Angelino says "Let's have lunch," he is saying "Fuck you."
And now there is a social transaction writ even larger in its ironic transport. "You. Have a good day."

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