You’ve Ruined Christmas! Part 1: No Daps Policy

I’ve had a running joke going on for some years now. If anything – and I do mean anything – happens to go wrong during the month of December I dramatically cry, “You’ve ruined Christmas!” if a person is to blame or “Christmas is ruined!” if it was an act of God or just bad luck. A stubbed toe, a playful insult from a friend, somebody denies the existence of Santa Claus (or similarly Black Pete or Krampus): Any of these can set me off. Additionally, I also mispronounce the word “ruined” as “roo-weened” as some dumb idiots sometimes are known to do. This running joke can extend to the week preceding New Years, during which time I modify the phrases to “You’ve retroactively ruined Christmas!” and “Christmas is retroactively ruined!”

As previously mentioned, I’m often presented with social situations to which I’m unsure how to respond. I’d say only a small part of it is due to the fact that I’m not properly socialized. The majority of the problem lies in the fact that there are a lot of damn weirdos around this godforsaken neighborhood in which I live and operate.

For example, I went to the grocery store tonight. On my way in the door, there was a man with a bell and a red bucket, collecting donations for the Salvation Army. He was ringing his bell and saying to everybody that walked by, very fast with a slight accent, “Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You. Happy Merry Christmas God Bless Youu.”

I only had a 20 dollar bill on me, so as I walked past I said “I’ll get you on my way out when I’ve got some change.”

“Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You.”

Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You

All right, the dude’s obviously working off of a script. No matter. I went inside and made my purchases. My change was $2.38, so I wrapped the bills around the coins and headed back outside. The man and I made eye contact as I was putting the money in the slot at the top of the bucket. “Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You,” he said in greeting.

This is when things got strange.

He approached me and lifted his hand, as though for a high-five. I had my groceries in one hand and my money in the other, and I couldn’t get the bills to fit into the slot because the change was all bunched up in the center. I rubbed the change together inside the wad of bills in an attempt to get them out of the way. “Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You,” the man said again just as the change broke free and plunked into the bucket. I used my index finger to cram the two dollar bills in after it.

“Yeah, Merry Christmas to you, too,” I said. Not one to leave a man hangin’, I lifted my hand to return the high-five. Ever the gentleman, I decided to default in position and let him be the one to initiate the high-five.

He just stood there, hand held up by his face. “Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You,” he said.

Okay, he’s not budging. A high-five is the wrong answer here. In the milliseconds it took me to process the information, an idea occurred to me. I curled my hand into a fist and waited for him to do the same, He just maintained eye contact, saying nothing, ringing his bell, his hand up by his face.

Panic Mode.

I decided that perhaps he wasn’t picking up on my social cues. Perhaps he would respond to a verbal command: “Fist-bump?” I offered.

“Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You.”

Abort Mission.

“Yeah, you too,” I said. Now here we were, standing in front of a super market, making intimate eye contact, hands raised at unnatural levels. One displaying an open palm, one a closed fist. I had to seal this deal, so I gently punched the palm of his hand. He smiled when I did it and his fingers curled. For one terrifying instant, I thought he was going to curl his hand around my fist, but he didn’t.

Mr. President and the First Lady: Dappin'

What in the hell just happened here?

I’d dapped into a high-five. And the dude smiled when I did it.

“Happy Merry Christmas God Bless You.”

Retreat.

I walked back to my car, furiously rubbing my knuckles on the side of my jeans. Did the Salvation Army have a strict no-daps policy? Don’t Dap Don’t Tell? Did the guy not know English? Is that why he was repeating the same phrase, over and over, with no pauses in between words?

A creeping sensation lurched its way up my spine and I could feel the man’s eyes on the back of my head. No amount of vigorous scrubbing on the side of my jeans could make my hand feel clean again. The feeling of dread and decay crawled its way up my arm to the elbow, much the same way I imagine punching into a box of cockroaches would feel. It was worse than receiving a weak handshake.

I felt violated. Raped, even. Was this some trick the bell ringer had played on me? How many countless victims had been lead into the same situation like sheep to the slaughter?

I didn’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I knew one thing to be true.

This experience would serve as a bad omen for the days to come.

Christmas is ruined!

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