December 30th, 2012

I'm a Resolutionist this year

I don't normally make New Years resolutions. I think most people make them with the best of intentions, but they're also driven by social pressure and calendar-driven obligation. "It's that time of the year again, so I have to make some resolutions. Let's see. I'll go the gym five times a week. I'll pay off all my credit cards. I'll lose ten pounds, no, make it twenty. I'll quit smoking." Resolutions made, people sail off into the new year with high hopes. They join a gym, and even go for a few weeks. They quit smoking until one day they're feeling stressed out or sad and just can't resist the urge to have "just one". They're nicer to their mother-in-law for a few weeks. Once the shine of a January new beginning wears off, though, they go right back to their old habits.

I used to be one of those people proclaiming grand new starts every year, but I eventually came to my senses. If I wanted to change something in my life I could do it on July 16, or November 3, or January 26 or any other day of the year-- being a slave to the calendar really didn't work for me.

This year I'm making a New Years resolution. I'll tell you about it in a little bit.

The other day I was meeting someone at a theater in Union Square. To be precise, it was the Saturday before christmas, and I was supposed to be there at 6 p.m. Union Square is the downtown shopping district of San Francisco, so I expected it to be a bit chaotic, especially in the rain. I left an hour early, which I was sure would give me plenty of time to spare. When I got there, the garage I usually park in was full. So was the next one, and the one after that. The streets were swarming with pedestrians dashing through the rain. There was no chance in hell that I was going to find a parking space anywhere near the theater. It sucked.

I eventually got out of the chaos, crossed Market, and started looking for a place to park. (The Metreon and Westfield Center were no help in this regard.) The first space I found was at 2nd and Folsom, about a mile from my destination. IT was 5:50 p.m. as I climbed out of the car. Ten minutes? Not a chance. I started walking, while keeping my eyes out for a cab.

About a block later, I was in the back seat of a big yellow box explaining to the driver where I was going and that I was supposed to be there by 6. "Gonna be tough since it's a zoo over there, but I'll get there as fast as I can." And so he did, talking to himself as he took a circuitous but carefully-considered route around the worst of the traffic, treated stoplights as suggestions, dodged slow-moving vehicles, and squeezed the cab through impossibly-tiny gaps. He got me there by 6:05, and the fare was about $7.50. I tossed him a twenty and told him to keep the change since I was impressed with his heroic effort. "Really? You sure? Thanks! You just made my night." He was grinning from ear to ear as he drove off into the clusterfuck of holiday traffic.

This afternoon I found myself at a suburban shopping mall in search of a jacket that I'd seen a few weeks earlier but didn't buy at the time. If you know me you understand that I'm not a fan of malls or suburbia. I'm also not terribly inclined to enjoy the after-christmas shopping rush at said suburban malls, since crowds are full of stupid people and stupid people annoy the fuck out of me. I wanted that blazer, though, and I was willing to brave the mall to get it.

Mission accomplished! While I was there, I took advantage of the post-holiday sales and added several lovely things to my wardrobe. As I was leaving, an older gentleman was heading for the door just as I was heading out so I stopped and held the door for him. He looked surprised, smiled, and thanked me cheerily. "Happy new year!"

On the walk from the store to my car I made my first New Years resolution in ages. "Every day I will try to make at least one complete stranger's life just a little bit brighter." Sometimes that will just mean being cheerful and patient with the overworked cashier, and then telling her that she's doing a fabulous job. Sometimes it will mean that I stop someone on the street to compliment them on their shirt. Sometimes I'll pay the bridge toll for the car behind me, or buy someone else's ice cream. I'm sure it will come in lots of ways that I haven't even thought about, but I'm going to do my best to do this every day. Being around happy people is infinitely more fun than being around grumpy people, and maybe in a small way I'll make the whole world slightly more fun.

The flip side of this means that I should try my darnedest not to make peoples lives worse. I won't bitch at the cashier, even when he makes a mistake. Yelling at the guy on the customer service line doesn't do anything to solve my problem, but it also makes his life worse.

On my way home, I did some special shopping. I bought a dozen each of:

- socks
- toothbrushes
- bars of soap
- combs
- bottles of hand sanitizer
- razors
- washcloths

along with a big box of ziploc bags. (Yes, I forgot the toothpaste. I'll get it later.) I'm turning all of this stuff into individual care packages for the homeless people that I run into in my daily life. I'll probably also add a couple of oranges as I give them out, since oranges make everything seem cheerier.

And there you have it-- my first resolution in many years, and one that I'm extremely happy to be making.