The first Tuesday of the year


You didn’t ask me how things went on Tuesday. I’m going to tell you anyway.

On Tuesday, I called a pal and asked if he wanted to go to lunch. “Not today,” he said, “I have to go to the gym.”

Gym? This guy drives the 300-yard distance from his house to the sari-sari store. And that’s only after letting his car idle in the driveway for 10 minutes so the aircon will cold-soak the interior and he won’t break a sweat.

Yes, some people really are spoiled. Me, I only use a 5-minute idle; everybody knows that’s sufficient, at least when it’s not summertime.

Anyway, I said goodbye and called a second friend.

“Dude, you wanna’ get some pizza?” I asked.

“Ah, pizza, no can do,” he said, “I’m having salad for lunch today.”

“You? Salad?”

“Yes, me. Salad.It’s organically-raised, low-carb, natural-herbal, fiber-rich salad topped with Mediterranean kale and free-range goat cheese.”

“Aren’t you the same guy who ate meatball sandwiches for breakfast every single day in October?”

“True enough,” he admitted. “But that was last year.”

Well, good for last year, I thought, but this isn’t improving the lunch situation at all. I said goodbye.

Since when did arranging lunch become some sort of moon shot? What’s wrong with everyone?

I figured I should consult an expert in the field. So I called Sparky. True, he’s not close enough to meet for lunch. He lives far away in a single-wide trailer in the remote bayou. The few strangers dumb enough to venture out there usually disappear, which is just fine with Sparky. When it comes to explaining what in the heck is wrong with everyone, he is the go-to guy.

So I explained the situation to him.

“What’s kale?” he asked.

“I dunno,” I said. “Some kind of fish, probably.”

“Sounds about right,” he said. “Anyway, as for your situation out there, don’t worry about it. Your pals aren’t snubbing you. They’ve just got a case of New Year Syndrome.”

“Syndrome? Sounds serious.”

“No, it ain’t serious at all. It’s a psychological thing. A new year means a blank calendar, sort of like getting a fresh start, and some people want to shed bad habits and pick up some good ones.”

“You mean, good habits like going to the gym?” I asked.

“Right. Or eating kalefish salad.”

I heaved a heavy sigh. “In that case, I guess I’m condemned to eating lunch alone for the rest of my life.”

“Relax,” said Sparky. “This condition is only temporary. In a few weeks everybody will be back to normal.”

“Are you sure?”

“You can bet on it. Before you know it, everyone’s gym clothes will go into the hamper and will somehow vanish during the laundry cycle. The running shoes will go into the closet and the zoris will come back out. The vegetables in the fridge will yield their space to real food, like, you know, hot dogs and pork chops.”

“Pizza, too?”

“Yes, pizza, too,” he said with an air of reassurance.

He then built a description of how everything would return to normal as the shine wore off of the new year. Granola bars would fade away from jacket pockets and would be replaced by cans of Skoal and Copenhagen. Car ashtrays would once again be filled with ashes. The neatly-creased Dockers purchased in December would, by mid-February, be buried at the bottom of the drawer while the faded old 501s were on top again.

“Mark my words,” Sparky concluded, “it’ll be pizza and meatballs by March, and jeans and flip-flops in time for Easter mass. Then you’ll know that everything’s back to normal.”

“Thanks, Sparky. I feel a lot better now.”

“Glad to hear it. But, hey, ol’ buddy, I’ve got to get going now.”

I glanced at my watch. “Of course! It’s just hitting happy hour in your time zone, right?”

“Yep,” said Sparky.

“Are you going to the veteran’s club as usual?”

“No time for that,” Sparky said. “I’m late to yoga class.” Then he hung up.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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