Big news! Today marked the 500th occasion I said goodbye to someone without them saying goodbye back.
It happened in a Dublin bakery I won’t bother naming. I was there to get a latte for my friend (I don’t drink coffee). I felt overall the transaction went well. I ate some of the free cake samples at the counter, joking how I hadn’t eaten today and how these morsels of cake were, in effect, my breakfast. I use this line a lot when buying/eating small amounts of junk food in the morning. The concept of such an incomplete, un-nutritious, impromptu breakfast, and the presumably disordered life behind it, seems to endear people.
That said, my handing over of €3.25 for a €2.75 item in order to get back a tidy 50c piece didn’t go down as well as I had hoped. Sometimes a cashier will convey quiet gratitude when offered the chance to hand over one coin in change instead of two, three, or four. Not in this case. The woman who served me (let’s call her Rosie) seemed puzzled by my change-simplifying gesture. Perhaps she felt I was complicating the situation, not simplifying it! Why are you handing me 25 cents on top of €3 which is already enough anyway, she seemed to be thinking.
My god, listen to me — getting bogged down in trivialities again. I am here to talk about the important matter of saying goodbye to someone and them not saying goodbye back and how this has now happened 500 times in my life. A huge moment in anyone’s life you will no doubt agree.
So anyway, Rosie handed me the cup of coffee and I walked over to the shelf where they keep the lids for the cups. I put a lid on the cup. Before turning to leave I looked towards Rosie and said, “see ya then.” Alas, she was busy with another customer and didn’t acknowledge my farewell. I can only assume I was not loud or assertive enough to be heard. I doubt Rosie would have consciously ignored me (ooooohhh, don’t think much of yourself do you, assuming a woman could never possibly ignore you!).
I tried to rescue the situation though you never would have guessed it! For, instead of delivering a louder and more assertive farewell, all I managed was a low, half-hearted “bye.” Needless to say, Rosie didn’t acknowledge or hear this either. I turned and left, smiling wryly to myself. 500 times this has happened now. 500 times. (By the way this bakery episode counts as one time even though I technically tried to say goodbye to Rosie twice).
So why the celebrations? Well, in this age of pomp and bluster, where misplaced confidence is often mistaken for talent, surely we ought to reserve a space for the meek, the gauche, the paranoid. I believe it was Jesus or maybe Shakespeare who once said, “We would do well not to forget the pale, largely hairless, sickly mouse when the stupid, healthy lions with the gorgeous manes are ruling the kingdom.” Then again, was it Jesus or maybe Shakespeare who also said, “Go get hammered and attend mass facetiously, and afterwards hide in a confession box while watching Dead Poets Society clips on your phone.” So, in the end, it’s hard to know what to think.