In Which I Decide...If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
Where I come from, religious affiliation is a very personal issue and not one that people broadcast at every opportunity. Northern people are very conservative when it comes to publicly expressing their religious views. Which is why, after 20 years in the South, I still cringe when someone slips a little halle-LU-jah or Praise JeZUS into completely random conversations.
Conversant #1: "Wow, this potato salad is amazing! I finally persuaded Mary to give me the recipe."
Conversant #2: "Praise JeZUS!"
Conversant #1: Can you believe I got this dress on sale for $25?
Conversant #2: Halle-LU-jah!
Any and all such pronouncements bug the living snot out of me, but the one that really makes me want to smack somebody silly is...
"Have a blessed day!"
The cashier at the grocery store said it to me this morning, and I reacted the way I always do. First, I blinked furiously, trying to process. Then I felt the smile on my lips freeze into a maniacal rictus. Then I bit my tongue to resist the urge to say something like...
"Well, I'm really looking forward to roasting over the fires of hell, but thanks anyway!"
Now, rationally, I understand that when somebody says "Have a blessed day!" they are simply trying to be kind. But part of me can't help thinking that it's also a fairly effortless way to hedge one's bets when it comes to the pre-judgement tally at the pearly gates.
I imagine St. Peter and his long suffering assistant standing at the head of a long line of the wretched and the damned, trying to decide who gets in and who has to kiss Satan's ass for the rest of eternity.
St Peter: Next!
Long Suffering Assistant: Let'sssssss seeeeeee. Oh yes. (clears throat) Candy Ann Spellman, 38, single, no children. Christian. Cashier at the Brew Barn. Hobbies include scrapbooking and wet t-shirt contests. Killed in an MVA, attempting to flee the scene of a thwarted armed robbery, masterminded by her most recent paramour, one Harold "Crusher" McCoy.
St. Peter (raising eyebrows): Joel....what do we say about Christianity??
Long Suffering Assistant: One must walk the walk, Sir.
St. Peter: Exactly! Send her packing.
Long Suffering Assistant: Um, with all due respect Sir, it says here that she exhorted some 4,786,592 persons to "Have a blessed day".
St. Peter: Yes, yes, what of it?
Long Suffering Assistant: Sir, I believe you are aware that such a dedicated display of pointless religious promulgation is grounds for a declaration of zealotism and as such, negates any and all prior transgressions as they pertain to eternal life.
St. Peter: Poppycock!!
Long Suffering Assisant (patiently): I assure you Sir, it's not Poppycock at all. Why else would Rex Humbard be here?
St. Peter: We have got to do something about that loophole. Remind to speak to the big G about that.
Long Suffering Assistant (scribbling): Noted, Sir.
St. Peter (sighing): Alright then. Let her through. A loophole is a loophole. What size halo?
Long Suffering Assistant (checking his notes): Uhhhhh, size 10, extra pious.
St. Peter (thunderously): Extra Pious! I think not! She'll get a size 10 semi devout and LIKE IT!
Long Suffering Assistant: As you wish, Sir.
St Peter: Next.
Long Suffering Assistant: Yes sir. Next we have Alice Ghostly, 81. Widowed. Mother of 7. Agnostic. Character actress and stage performer. Cause of death...
St. Peter: She's in.
Long Suffering Assistant: But I haven't finished yet.
St. Peter: She's in.
Long Suffering Assistant: But Sir....
St. Peter: I loved Bewitched! I know the Big G wouldn't have approved...Witchcraft and all that, but she wasn't a real witch. And my goodness...the trouble she got herself into!! (chuckles)That Esmerelda. She had spunk!
Long Suffering Assistant (dryly): She certainly was a hoot, Sir. But I'm afraid she did not utter a single "Have a blessed day" during her life. Not one.
St. Peter: Well damnation.
Long Suffering Assistant: Quite literally, Sir.
So...I dunno. I'll admit I'm hyper sensitive when it comes to such things. But, really...what's so wrong with plain ole "Have a nice day?" It doesn't offend anybody. It doesn't exclude anybody. It isn't pretentious, self-righteous or contrived. It your standard all purpose social nicety, n'est pas?
Oh I know, I know...we Americans have this weird need to customize every little colloqualism, aphorism and slogan to our own personal designations. I have no idea why. I suppose it's the American propensity for self aggrandizement and involvement.
Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
So to all of you out there in the blogosphere, I say....
"Have a religiously ambiguous day!"
(Recycled from 2007. Had a discussion with a friend the other day that made me think of it, and I decided that I like it enough to subject you to it again.)