I stupidly locked myself out of my car yesterday at the Mitchell rodeo. This is the first time I’ve made this mistake in 20 years of driving so I’m hoping it is not a sign of getting old. But the timing was poor having just driven west a 100km to cover the event. I had just arrived at the rodeo in the rain and parked carefully having been told to avoid a boggy 4WD area. I got out of the car and was wading my way through the sodden grass to the arena when a cursory pat of the pocket revealed the missing key. I rushed back to the car in the hope that I was equally forgetful locking the car. Nope, the car was locked and the keys were dangling innocently in the ignition.
After an appropriate amount of swearing, I remembered I just got a bill from RACQ and figured they could earn their keep today. So I rang them up. I got a bit testy with them because I told them I was at the Mitchell Showgrounds and the lady on the phone couldn’t find a showgrounds in Mitchell. I insisted that was where I was nonetheless.
Turns out we were both wrong.
There is a Showgrounds in Mitchell as the mechanic found quickly but I wasn’t in it.
While it looked like a showgrounds to me, I was at the RSL Sporting Complex or something. No wonder I couldn’t remember, I might still have it wrong.
The mechanic rang me ten minutes after I had put in the first call. In the meantime, I realised I had forgotten to give the important information in the first call and was determined to make amends.
“Where are ya?” asked the mechanic, directly.
“I’m at the rodeo. Are you in Roma or Mitchell?” I asked, hoping against hope he wasn’t an hour away in Roma.
“Mitchell," he said.
"They told me you were at the bloody Showgrounds, there was no one there.”
“That might have been my fault. How long will you be?" I replied.
“Ten minutes, mate”.
He was there in five. In another five minutes I bore witness to a superb (and superbly easy) break-in. My keys were back in my pocket in an impressive quarter of an hour from the time I’d rang them. I apologised for my idiocy, thanked him and wished him a Happy New Year.
Actually I can’t remember if I did wish him that but if I didn’t, I should have. I doubt if my problem would have been fixed that quickly in Brisbane. I was deeply grateful because it meant that the first hour of my arrival at a rodeo wasn’t spent worrying stupidly about the problem.
It meant instead I could concentrate on other hazards like how to get a story and not get saturated or ensuring the heavy rain didn’t destroy my notebook. But because I had no control over the weather, these were fun challenges. What the mechanic gave me was time to recover from my own mistakes, and that was the most precious gift of all.
I could enjoy the rodeo and I did. That is why the greeting of Happy New Year is so important. It is the expression of goodwill in time. The singing of Auld Lang Syne looks to the past for inspiration but the expression Happy New Year is definitely about the year to come.
It is more that just a platitude of politeness. When we say it we bestow a blessing for a substantial amount of time. While we cannot control fortune, it behooves us to act appropriately to ensure that nothing we do can disturb that blessing.
It is the length of time that gives the blessing its power.
Even the Christmas period immediately before with its obvious messages of warmth and family only offers at most 12 days of goodwill with the greeting “Merry Christmas”. And Christmas is merry because it is full of high-spirited gaiety. But such jolliness cannot be sustained in the long run. New Year is happy because it is characterised by good luck or fortune. This is a prize beyond merriment and a dividend with a long return. Hence its worth.
Good luck or fortune has nothing to do with new year; such characteristics should be prized at any time. But it is only at New Year we remember to wish them for others. As a reminder it has incalculable value. Such longterm goodwill is rare outside 1 January (or Chinese or other cultures’ New Year).
In other words, the Happy New Year greeting is a human trait that exists beyond culture that gives us all a little bit of vicarious joy and hope. So while it is now after midnight and technically speaking the Second of January, it is not too late to spread my little bit.
Happy New Year to all my readers and to the mechanic in Mitchell who probably won't read this. Here’s to a great 2010 for all of you.
And hopefully, dementia willing, another twenty years before I lock myself out of my car again.