“Good morning,” said a complete stranger in the breakfast area of our hotel. “Good morning,” responded my well-mannered girlfriend, Aileen. It was our third day in Galway, Ireland.
“Have you noticed,” I asked, “that every morning, when we’re eating our breakfast down here, no matter who walks in, they feel the need to say good morning to us?”
“Well it’s unnecessary, and it needs to stop.”
“Keith…what’s wrong with saying good morning?”
“There’s nothing wrong with it per se,” I said. “I’m just wondering why they feel the need to acknowledge our presence in the first place. No matter where I am in the world, this has happened to me at every hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Other people walk in and say good morning because they falsely think that I have something in common with them. I don’t. I’m staying in the same hotel and eating the same continental breakfast. That’s it. The similarities end there.”
“So just because we’re staying in the same hotel as them doesn’t mean that we’ve achieved that level of familiarity yet.”
“Achieved that level of familiarity? Just to say good morning?”
“Yes! Why don’t they just ask me for a kidney while they’re at it?”
She gave me a I-can’t-believe-I’ve-been-dating-you-for-an-entire-year look, and then repeated, “They’re only saying good morning.”
Aileen was clearly not understanding my point, and whenever people don’t understand what I’m trying to tell them, for whatever reason, I tend to use metaphors that involve genocide. I wonder if there’s medication for this.
“Let me explain something to you,” I said. “Starting in 1939, German citizens–”
“Oh boy. Here we go again,” Aileen rudely interrupted.
“Starting in 1939, German citizens were forced to give the Nazi salute hundreds of times a day. Now you know that there were lots of German citizens who didn’t want to do this, but they did it anyway, and they probably said to themselves, ‘I’m giving this salute, but I don’t mean it.’ Well, considering that they would be killed if they didn’t do it, cognitive dissonance kicked in, and they eventually stopped telling themselves that it was evil. The next thing you know, not only was their soul gone, but a lot of them actively persecuted the Jews.”
Aileen put down her toast and said, “In fifty words or less, please explain to me how saying good morning to someone is equivalent to the Holocaust.”
“My point is that empty, meaningless gestures could have horrific consequences,” I said.
“And let me guess. When someone says good morning to you, by you ignoring them, you’re indirectly saving the lives of six million people?” she asked.
“There’s nothing indirect about it,” I said, “but I love how perceptive you are. It’s no wonder that we’ve been together so long.”
“You know what? It’s that sort of attitude that’s going to make me exclude you from my acceptance speech when I win the Nobel Peace Prize!” I said.
Just then, a middle aged couple who were most likely Americans entered the room. I say that they were most likely Americans because they were about six-hundred pounds overweight. “Good morning,” they said to us simultaneously.
I shook my head in annoyance. Aileen wished them a good morning.
“You know,” she said, “it wouldn’t kill you to wish them a good morning. And despite what you say, it wouldn’t kill them either!”
This was disappointing. I thought my Nazi Germany metaphor was quite profound. I needed to pursue a different avenue of thought so that she could better understand what I was trying to say.
“You know, in Rwanda in 1994, the Tutsis–”
“No,” Aileen interrupted again. “Christ! You’ve only been awake for ten minutes and you’ve already made two references to genocide! That’s not normal!”
“Actually, I only made one reference to genocide. I was about to make another, but you interrupted me.”
“Too bad. Find something else to talk about.”
I took a sip of my coffee. This was going to be difficult; I was never very good at small talk. Finally, I came up with something. “Hey! Did you hear that Michael Jackson died?”
cc: Alonzo Mourning
July 12, 2009