27 December 2013

The Annual Taint

by Dixon Hill

Welcome to the Friday after Christmas.

 Based on an old joke I repeatedly heard while stationed in the south, I’m always tempted to call this time period the Annual Taint. As in: “I-tain’t Christmas, an’ i-tain’t New Years yet. It jes tain’t!” 

That old joke had nothing to do with time-keeping or calendars, of course. And, it was actually quite vulgar, so I won’t reproduce it here. I mention it merely to explain how I came up with the idea of calling this period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the Annual Taint.

 The kids aren’t in school. A lot of people haven’t yet returned to the office. Not a lot of business seems to get done, and those who are working tend to be a bit more lackadaisical in the approach they take to their jobs, it seems to me (though they may FEEL quite harried due to the mad influx of post-Christmas shoppers and merchandise-returners).

 All those packages that didn’t make it to their destinations by Christmas, move sluggishly through a still-bloated postal system slowly digesting the flotsam of Christmas-most-recently-past, prodded along by folks who’d really rather be sitting at home with their feet up instead. Seems i-tain’t a good time to expect quick shipping.

 The mind is often sluggish, as well, at this time of year. Too much food on Christmas day, topped by sugary treats that seem to lie everywhere about the house, in break rooms, local watering holes and in gathering spots, seemingly leech the mind’s energy.

 In fact, I just went down to fetch some cigars (desperately needing nicotine to help produce my digi-print ramblings!) and found myself driving through streets and past shopping centers that appeared to be staffed and frequented by still-breathing zombies. One fellow made a left against a red arrow—illegal here in Scottsdale. I inadvertently caught up to him at the next traffic light, and saw that he and his wife were evidently trying to figure out how to light a cigarette. Considering that he’d just run a red light, I wondered if it really was a cigarette! 

 In the ancient days of sailing ships, there was a spot in the mid-Atlantic known as the Doldrums. There, the trade winds died and a ship might sit for days or weeks before a breeze came along to set her in motion again. Sometimes the long boats were lowered and crewmembers took turns, trying to row their ship back into the wind once more. But, try as they might, they were usually forced to let the great Atlantic catch its breath before blowing them onward in their journey. 

 The Annual Taint is sort of like American Production’s doldrums. People tend to sit around and stare, while nothing much happens. For those of us in the writing business, it seems folly to expect an editor's or agent's response during this time of year.

Nor does it matter if you belong to a religion that doesn't celebrate Christmas, or even if you practice or believe in no religion at all; you’re still caught up in the Taint, along with the rest of us—it’s the nature of the season.

Frankly, I used to feel sorry for confirmed atheists with Type-A personalities, thinking they must go rather mad this time of year.  Lately however, I’ve realized they probably make enough money—having Type-A personalities, that is—that they long ago realized this is the best occasion to vacation in the Bahamas, or maybe to take pictures of the Kremlin with a snow-covered Red Square in the foreground.

 Yes, even the most productive-minded among us find it necessary to catch their breath during the Annual Taint. There’s just no choice. It seems to be a requirement imposed on us by a collective hitch in our national behavior.

 On the other hand, ‘tain’t a bad time t’ catch up on your readin’ neither. So … I encourage you to sit back and Enjoy the Annual Taint—whoever you are, and whatever your philosophical or religious leanings may be. Sit back, put your feet up, open a good book, and maybe take a sip or more of whatever you enjoy.

 I’ll see you in two weeks,


  1. Clever, Dixon, very clever. This should be the perfect time to finish the first draft of an almost-completed manuscript, but all those people involved in the Annual Taint won't leave me alone. They seem to think that if they have nothing to do, neither do I. Enjoy that cigar and these Taint days. When they're over, it's back to the old grindstone.

  2. Good one, Dix. And did you make that dollar bill origami sailboat yourself?

  3. Ah, the Annual Taint - basically, the whole time between Christmas and New Year's should just be one big annual holiday. There's very little that gets done then anyway. (Unless, I assume, you're a retailer or a UPS/Fed-Ex guy) I am going to sit back with a book, but no cigar. Happy New Year's all!

  4. Ah yes, our bloatedly slow post office. I had a package expected by December 19th. In fact the tracking number said (in great printed detail) that it had been delivered to our mailbox on the 19th. We have one of those separate locked boxes in a community type mailbox. No package in our mailbox.
    On the 23rd, I wait in a long line, documents in hand, to explain the situation to an uncaring post office employee who assures me my mail carrier will check and then call me within a day. No phone call.
    On the 26th, said package suddenly arrives in the lock box with no explanation. Where had it been resting if it had officially been delivered a week prior. It's a Christmas mystery and the USPO taint talking.

  5. I KNEW I was feeling odd and now you have given me a name to call it!!! Thanks! Thelma Strawin Manhattan

  6. Indeed, Fran, I’ll return to serious writing when my kids return to school, sometime after the new year begins. LOL Until then — IMPOSSIBLE!! LOL

    Elizabeth: Had I made that dollar bill origami sailboat myself, you would know it — because it would resemble a misshapen metamorphic rock instead, and float about as well as one.

    Enjoy your read, Eve!

    R.T. , I think the only way to solve your mystery package problem, is to contact Dirk Gently, the Holistic Detective, at his agency in the UK. I suspect he’ll discover it is somehow related to Schrödinger's cat and the collapse of quantum superposition into potentially divergent realities. (i.e. Your postal-carrier was firing his electrons at the wrong screen ... er... mail box.)

    Thelma, you’re very welcome. Further: you have my permission—and encouragement—to incorporate the phrase “Annual Taint” into your daily practices and writings in any way you wish.

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  8. I know that joke and I tain't touching it!

    Most people don't realize it, but this is still part of Christmas. The 12 days start Dec 25 and run thru Jan 6.

  9. Holy Kofi! Anon: (Get it???)

    I think that means we should each now have 3 French Hens, 4 Turtle Doves, and 3 Partridges—each in its own pear tree! (Assuming our gifts actually do compound. i.e.: A single Partridge in a Pear Tree on Wednesday [Christmas morning], plus 2 Turtle Doves and a second Partridge in a Pear Tree on Thursday, followed by 3 French Hens, 2 more Turtle Doves and another Partridge in a Pear Tree today! I think I did the math right, but I’ve been a bit Tainted. LOL)

    Enjoy all of the twelve days you get, before having to return to the daily grind, everybody!


    P.S. I did mention that the joke was crude.

  10. Anon's right, although by tradition 6 January is the 13th or feast day. I wrote about it on Criminal Brief!

    Christmas cheer to Madeleine.

  11. One thing I like about this week is there's less traffic on my pre-dawn drive to work!

  12. Oh, Jeff, no catching your breath, during the Taint, eh? Down in Phx it's the other way around: the Snow Birds are here and the roads are fuller than when it's hot out. I hope you enjoy the down-time you can find!

    Leigh, leave it to you to write a moving memorial to your father, mention the Feast of the Epiphany, AND teach us about forced perspective -- all in one fantastic article! Kudos, buddy. And, Mad says thanks for the Christmas cheer, and to let you know I wasn't really Tainted but was just kidding instead.



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