A New Year’s Shelf Life

Human beings have long differentiated one day from another by events, allowing us to have something to look forward to as well as something to put behind us.  They start a new time frame and end an old one.  They give us a fresh start.

But as David Giacalone, the Bard of Schenectady, found out, the shelf life of a New Year has dropped by one third.

January 3rd 
only the panhandler
says “happy New Year!”

… by dagosan

It looks like I’m going to have to edit that senryu I wrote a couple years ago.  This afternoon (January 2, 2009), the pretty and popular young check-out girl at our public Library was quite taken aback when I handed her the items I wanted to borrow and said “Happy New Year.”   A few hours into her first work shift of 2009, and the idea of offering good tidings for the new year to someone she sees and chats with a few times a week had already floated into “whatever” oblivion for the young college student and part-time civil servant.

Celebrating the eve of a new year has been out of the question for Mrs. Simple Justice and me for many years.  Something bad always happened when we tried to go wild and crazy, and thus began our family tradition of going to sleep at 9:30.  Of course, that’s when we go to sleep most nights, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.

The contraction of the Happy New Year greeting opportunity is a problem.  First, the start of a new year seems like an awfully good opportunity to break from the past and make a fresh beginning.  It’s a natural.  But we can’t see everyone we know within a 48 hour span, and so we’re constrained to continue to wish people well for at least a week or two.  With 52 weeks in the year, this hardly seem too much.

To do so, however, is to risk social disaster.  I would be pinned immediately as some sort of idiot who doesn’t realize that New Year was so yesterday, such old news, and be shunned.  Parents would tell their children to stay away from me as if they could catch some loathsome disease.  Was I unaware that my greeting must relate solely to this instant?  Did I not realize that time and tide wait for no man?  Happy New Year was old.  Clearly, so am I.  Giacalone is no spring chicken either, I might add.

In my observations of others, it has long become clear that we have become a people of immediacy.  We twitter in 140 characters rather than write complete sentences with fully-blown thoughts.  If it doesn’t fit, we can either contract our words or contract our thoughts,  Either way, it’s less than complete.

I have nothing against brevity, though I don’t practice it as much as I should.  But many of the ideas that this blawg, and criminal defense lawyers in general, seek to discuss don’t fit within the limits that hip folks now use.  This makes me (and us) decidedly unhip, and likely means that many people will quickly skim the first paragraph and then skip to the end to see if there is anything here that’s worth their time.  Meaning is lost.  Nuance is lost.  Words have long since lost specific meaning, and blended into some generalized sense.  It’s impossible to communicate anything worth saying when that’s the case, since most thoughts require more detail.

But one thought can be conveyed in less than 140 characters.  Happy New Year.  If only I had thought to write these three words before today, January third, since it’s now too late to be of any significance.

2 comments on “A New Year’s Shelf Life

  1. David Giacalone

    Back at ya, Dude!! [Is that too hip for a Twitterless Old Codger to say in public?]

    It’s a good thing you get up and start writing early, Scott, ’cause this topic would already be so like last year by noon today (unless it makes it into a Sunday NYT op/ed piece on January 4th).

    Of course, like yourself, my commentary leans far more toward prolix than pithy. Taking the time for nuance will not, as you know, stop others from missing or distorting the point being made. That’s a truth that was already old before the first words were put down on papyrus. The switch from pen to pixels has only made it worse.

    By the way, I just looked up the word Bard and think the term might be misleading in my case. Besides not even liking poetry other than haiku and its related forms, there’s nothing lyrical about my poems and they are all done in 17 syllables or less. In addition, Yu Chang is a far more renowned and accomplished haiku poet from Schenectady than I. Maybe, “Schenectady’s One-Breath Bard of the Bar (and Blawgisphere)” captures your notion with a little more nuance.

    I forget: Did I wish you a Happy New Year yet?

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