Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Time to Summer Down

The funny thing about Summer is that it seems to be the Best Thing Ever(TM) a week before it kicks off. When students are (ideally) funnelling their waking hours into past papers, staring at lecture notes or wondering wistfully if Armageddon has been pencilled in for anytime soon, scores of hours of free time seem like the best thing since people stopped saying YOLO. And, to start, it is, even if you don’t do much. There's a lot to commend days that revolve around C-List Youtube videos and the eternal question how late does it have to be before breakfast is really lunch?

Such stretches of nothingness, however, can begin to grate - even if you’ve got a fairly busy social schedule these kinds of days can stack up on each other quickly and do weird things to your mind. Personally, so much time spent in purposeless isolation can cause my tolerance levels to drop faster than the fan base of Heroes. During summer, pet hates balloon into mortal sins; little quirks of everyday living become unforgivable slights. 

Think I’m kidding? Here are three quick examples of holiday-specific aggravations.

(1) Fun-sized snack bars

Now this is more like fun-sized.
‘Good things come in small packages’ is what we’re told, usually at Christmas by someone who thinks you’ll be made made whole by another pocket sized Filofax. 
Sometimes the cliche is true - when I’m sent a document to proofread and end up after two hours drowsily blinking through eyelashes that feel sealed with wax, small is definitely better. When Samwise Gamgee is getting hitched to a nice lady-hobbit after all drama in the film ended half an hour ago, less is more. When someone asks how you’re doing, they don’t want to hear anything longer than ‘Pretty good. You?’.

Not always, though, is the smaller superior. Imagine: I’m rummaging in the cupboards for a snack. My fingers clasp around the thin wrapper of something that feels deliciously fattening. I pull my hand out of the cupboard and (to my unimaginable horror) see that the chocolate bar is small enough to make my thumb feel like a Titan amongst mortals. 

Such an event would be upsetting yet forgivable had the designers of the packet not had the evil within their hearts to tauntingly label the food ‘Fun-sized’.  Fun-sized! Is anyone actually persuaded by this move? Is there anyone with the capacity to read who looks at the fictitious adjective and exclaims “Oh, score! I thought I was having a plain old Mars Bar but I guess today’s my lucky day!” Hardly. 

Though I understand slapping “The Over-Compensating Snack” on the wrapper instead might not sell as well, I reserve the right to be mildly irritated.

Some Cola out in plain view. Rookie mistake.
(2) Refrigerator Hide and Seek

Say for the sake of argument that after some smashed windows and flipped tables, you’ve regained your cool. You’ve gone to the shops, bought some honest consumables and, now home, are in need of some fridge space to store the things that need cooling. Not so fast! You’ve forgotten that the fridge is the preferred hunting ground of that ignoble species: The Family. 

What’s that, you say? You’ve written your name on your purchases? Words can be easily overlooked in the face of hunger. 
What’s that? Parents wouldn’t take take your things without checking? Ah, you forget the “We’ve been feeding you your whole life anyway” response, the ultimate shut-down and worst possible afterward to all apologies. 

No, young novice. Best hide your purchase behind something less appetising - say that cabbage that decides being green is too mainstream - and avoid the tastebuds of Sauron sweeping over and devouring your property. 

Refrigerator Hide and Seek: saving over 50,000 cakes per annum. Thank me later.

What’s that? There’s a sandwich already stashed behind that cabbage? Dibs.

(3) Gratuitous Nicety

Now, it’s pleasant when you’re trying to turn onto a busy road and some other driver decides to decelerate a bit to let you in. This is actually called by some ‘being nice’. When the same road holds only one person and (s)he still drops twenty miles an hour to let you in first, this is ‘being unnecessary and a bit strange’.

If I’m walking through someplace with my rucksack open and someone taps my shoulder and points this fact out to me, I appreciate the concern and thank the stranger. If I drop a pen and that same person from miles away charges forward to pick it up for me, I wonder if they are trying to be kind or if the makers of Cluedo could have been a bit more comprehensive in their identification of weaponry.

When an aquaintance gets you a present and the tag reads ‘Happy Birthday, Melvin!’, it shows they care. If your name's Melvin, anyway. When a friend gets you a present and the tag says ‘Happy Monday! (present one of seven)', you might have to set set your social media to appear offline for a few years.

At this point, belief in the essential goodness of humanity being slowly drained with every sentence, you hold your head in your hands and wonder how somebody could get annoyed at such triviality. “Maybe”, you say, “He can get along on a day to day basis without being such a grump?”

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