Back in the US.
You wouldn't think that most of the people who work in shops in America would have much to be happy about, but I'm always surprised how cheerful they seem.
"Have a nice day."
That famous and often-mocked bit of seemingly superficial politeness that is the climax of so many customer service transactions.
"Hey, you have a nice day, too."
I always thought it was stupid. "Have nice day," my ass. Maybe I'd prefer to have a shitty day, thank you very much.
But really, I've come to appreciate it.
I mean, it's not much to ask for, is it?
"Have a nice day!"
It's not like, have a nice week, or have a nice year, or have a nice life. It's just ... have a nice day.
It has a bit of wistfulness to it, doesn't it? "I know the rest of your life probably sucks, but the least I can do is hope that this particular day doesn't turn out too badly for you."
It's not even usually, "Have a great day," although you do hear it. It's usually just ... have a nice day. Have an okay day, you know? A gesture of hope that we can get through our stupid consumer exchange without any unpleasantries, and even get through the rest of the day that way.
Kids are getting blown up in Syria, cops and protesters are shooting each other daily in urban America, but, here, and now ... let's just, you know, try to have a nice day.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and remind you to draw your loved ones close and wish them a nice day as we all rocket, separately and together, into the eternal darkness.
That I got to hear "Feliz Nazidad" performed by the Navy band in Ecuador was certainly a highlight of the year.