A poem by Stephen Dunn begins:
And so you call your best friend
who’s away, just to hear his voice,
but forget his recording concludes
with “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you, but I have other plans,”
you’re always tempted to respond,
as an old lady once did, the clerk
in the liquor store unable to laugh.
This, of course, is an invitation to come up with other probably smart-ass responses.
Here in Northern Michigan the likely response would be, “Don’t tell me what to do.” In fact, for many of our neighbors this is pretty much their response to anything, from face masks to vaccines, from speed limits (those are supposed to be upper limits, not lower limits) to environmental protection. “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” could be our state motto. It might be better than our current motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”
In fact, I get rather tired of all those imperatives bombarding us in the form of advice about how to live better, more virtuous and therefore happier lives. You know, sayings like, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Or, “Find joy in the journey.” How about, “When you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine.” Nothing wrong with these, really, but when I’m bombarded with them in garden shops, gift shops, faux antique shops – it starts to feel oppressive. That guy in the insurance ad who is teaching young people how not to be like their parents gets it right: throw those signs away. Or maybe it’s just me . . ..
Another problem with “Have a nice day” is the word “nice.” How often do we really want a “nice” day? Polite? Socially acceptable? Polite? Excessively precise or delicate? Fastidious? I can see pleasing or agreeable as worthwhile blessings to offer, but that seems to be setting the bar rather low, especially since it doesn’t really cost you anything to utter this blessing-gift. How about, “Have an amazing day,” though I admit that many of us do not want to be amazed. (I recall Samuel Johnson’s definition of “wonder” as “the effect of novelty on ignorance.” Maybe my life is wonderful because I supply the ignorance and Kim supplies the novelty.)
So, the challenges now are two:
1. Come up with an alternative generic parting comment. Something better than, “Have a nice day.” A fellow Starbucks barista would tell customers, “Have a great day,” which I chose to hear as “Have a gray day,” which I thought an interesting parting wish. My Starbucks manager would say, “Have a nice day, darlin’.” She explained that when she said “darlin,” she meant, “you asshole.” (I think it’s a southern thing.)
2. Come up with a good response when someone tells you what kind of day to have. Something to put a smile on the face of the clerk in the liquor store.
Have a next day.