“Two bags please,” Tammie Fields says, eyeing the grocery store cashier carefully, waiting for her moment to strike. When the total is rung up she asks to pay by debit, then taps the console, packs her bags, collects her reciept and shoots a furtive glance left, then right, before suddenly hissing: “Merry Chirssssssstmassssssssss.”
The cashier – not white, not old, not bitter – glances up from the next customer, checking to see if Tammie is perhaps suffering a stroke, or has a physical impediment that would explain why she is hissing a seasonal salutation. Finding nothing other than a strange glint in Mrs. Fields’ eyes, the cashier just nods and says easily, “Thanks. You too.”
Tammie stares at her. She tries again.
“Chirsssssssstmasssssss. You know. Jeeeeeeeeezuzzzzzzzzz.”
“Sure. Yeah, Christmas. Have a merry one ma’am,” the cashier says, moving on.
“You aren’t allowed to say that,” Tammie announces triumphantly.
Not looking up from a head of broccoli that doesn’t want to stay in its bag, the young employee absently asks why not.
“I read it in the Sun. People in stores have to say ‘Season’s Greetings’ now because the world is going down the tubes and no one really stands for anything anymore. You said ‘Christmas.’ I could get you fired.”
The cashier just shakes her head and smiles. Tammie stands there for an hour before eventually shuffling out to her car dejectedly, finally deciding to head home after a stock boy, a woman wearing a hijab in the the pasta aisle, the man who runs the post office in the Guardian drugs, a Tim Horton’s worker, and a garbage man who looked like he’d come from away, all refused to do anything other than smile and return her Christ-based festive cheer on this particular outing.
Tammie is not alone. A recent survey by people with too much time on their hands confirmed that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to strangers only resulted in discord in 1% of interactions.
“And in all of those cases it was because the person saying it unintentionally spat the ‘s’ sound as they said ‘Christmas,’ which offended people who don’t like being spat on, perhaps understandably during the height of cold and flu season,” says Gerard Buttler, head of sociology at the University of Toronto.
“I’d say I don’t know where the idea that you can’t say Merry Christmas anymore comes from, except I know exactly where it comes from and exactly who has exploited that notion to further alienate a voter base whose general naïveté is only matched by their vanity in thinking that anyone cares how they qualify their season’s greetings.”
“Whatevs,” Tammie says in response to being told this. “We all know it’s true. These people (you know the ones, the other ones) they come to Canada and they take jobs with one hand and won’t say Merry Christmas with the other. And I’m not having it. So who wants to fight?” The No Frills parking lot is quiet. A man hastily walks in the other direction, despite having to wade through a thigh-deep puddle of slush and salt. Who can blame him?”
“Alright no one,” Mrs. Fields says, almost wistfully. “I guess I’ll just head on home and troll around on the Facebook for a bit. Merry Chirsssssssstmassssssssss.”