It’s the first of the year, which means you have about 18 hours to feel virtuous about your resolutions. Everything seems possible, no? New year, new you! Maybe — if you’ve entered the witness protection program.
But even then it’s tough: “OK, you need to do things differently now, because otherwise they’ll find you and break your legs for testifying. So no more walking the dog shirtless, smoking a Cuban cigar.”
First week: “I’m wearing a polo shirt and chewing some plug. They’ll never find me. I’m a new man!”
Second week: “I’ll just wear a tank top and smoke a Honduran cheroot.”
Third week: “I don’t have to button my shirt. And who can tell it’s a Cuban?”
Fourth week: “Hello, Agent Johnson? There’s been a car parked outside my house all day every day for a week now.”
We are who we are, and it is ridiculous to think we become someone else because it’s January. If anything, we want to be more of who we are. If you say, “I resolve to eat more French toast with maple syrup and powdered sugar as gossamer-soft and white as the dandruff of my guardian angel,” people think you’re daft. If you say, “It is cold and bleak outside, so I resolve to deprive myself of French toast entirely; for breakfast I will lick a hot brick that has been rubbed in crushed flaxseed,” you get nods of approval.
Of course you should try to improve yourself, but don’t set yourself up for failure by participating in this New Year’s resolution nonsense. No, it’s much more satisfying to make resolutions ... for other people. Such as:
• If you run a website: You resolve to reword the text on the pop-up box that asks if the visitor would like to subscribe to a newsletter. Right now the options are something like “Yes, I’d like to learn more” and “No, I prefer to remain shrouded in the gray veil of ignorance.” If the visitor is asked for an e-mail address to get 3 percent off the price, the text says “Yes, I love to save money!!” and “No, I prefer to pay as much money as possible.”
You will change those because you are shaming people for not giving them your e-mail, which you will abuse by sending 10 letters a week offering free shipping on slippers that no one can order because you measure foot size in millimeters.
• If you own a grocery store: You resolve to send out technicians every morning to test the wheels of the carts, so no one gets that one wheel that shudders like a chihuahua during an artillery barrage. Or make all the carts shake. Either way, no one will feel as if they’ve been singled out by fate.
• If you are a telemarketer who uses robots that mimic human conversation, fooling the vulnerable into handing over credit card information, you resolve to read the Bible story of Saul of Tarsus, who fell off his horse and had a vision of righteousness that made him repent.
Actually, you can just do the falling-off-the-horse bit. And a ladder can be substituted for the horse.
• If you are a particular airline I have in mind, you resolve to cease operations so you no longer come up as an option when booking a flight. Yes, you’re inexpensive, but you charge extra for everything. What’s this $5 “Entertainment” charge? Oh, that’s for the flight attendant’s performance of the safety instructions. And what’s up with this $9 “Tray-Table Hinge Lubrication Fee”?
This airline once canceled my flight because — well, they couldn’t quite say. The pilot had mechanical difficulties, something like that. Last week my wife’s flight was delayed five hours because the cargo bay door was iced shut. They put everyone on the plane, then took everyone off. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for the “Carpet Wear and Tear Surcharge.”
• If you are a columnist: You resolve not to write something that collects various obvious grievances under the loose rubric of “resolutions” and hopes it’ll do because a significant portion of the audience won’t read the paper because the rustling is so loud.
I resolved that last year, but as Lenin said: “Resolutions are like pie crusts, made to be filled with delicious fruit fillings and distributed amongst the party members, with careful attention paid to those who are not enthusiastic enough.” No — that’s not quite what he said. It was: “Resolutions are like treaties, made to be broken.”
First day of the year, and I’ve already accomplished something!