The days following the holidays can seem so sad.
There's no more tinsel-covered everything; the lingering lights decorating the streets seem discarded and out of place, as if they know they have served their purpose and are about to be stored until the following season.
No more parties, no more toasts, no more indulgences in treats or decadent desserts.
The tree's been recycled, or in the case of my little pink artificial tree, put away until next year. The holidays are over. And so is the goodwill towards man.
A clear indicator of this happened several years ago. I had been working in retail for a while but had somehow missed the holiday season the previous year.
I loved being busy, seeing the people come in shopping for loved ones. No matter how crowded it was, or how long they had to wait, everyone was in a festive spirit and happy.
Until the returns started.
Then those same happy customers that had been all smiles just a week before were scowling and complaining as soon as they came in the door.
"What is the reason for your return?" had to be asked of each and every one. Even when it was obvious - like the sweater was so obnoxious the gifter clearly hated the recipient.
"Does this look like something I would wear?" one lady snapped in response.
I couldn't respond; I didn't know the lady so I had no idea how poorly her taste in sweaters ran.
Of course, whoever gave it to her may have hated her like my ex-mother-in-law did me; she notoriously gave me hideous sweaters with odd animals Bedazzled on them or skirts made for hipless women every chance she got.
"What in the world has got into everyone? It was like they all woke up on the wrong side of the bed!" one of my co-workers commented on the blatant rudeness and surly attitudes we had dealt with over the day.
Greeting strangers with smiles, being courteous and letting someone go ahead of you was a ghost of the week's past. The date now fell in the first week of January and people had returned back to normal. Or for many of them, at least the ones we encountered, normal meant rude and snarky.
I'll tell you what happened.
The holidays were over and a memo was sent out that everyone could resume their meanness. Those New Year's resolutions to be kinder, nicer in the new year were gone. Forgotten.
They were just a few days in and already shaking them off like sand in a beach towel.
Nope, it was clear that all the good will towards men was done with.
Maybe a contributor to the lack of cheer was that most of the people were on a New Year's diet, trying to lose the weight they had gained. Maybe the reason they were so cheerful just a week before was because their blood sugar was stable or they had a steady stream of chocolate.
I thought the chill of winter may be contributing to the crankiness. Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but I know it makes me cranky.
I thought it had to be something that just occurred in retail, where I had witnessed just about any and every possible human quirk.
We saw people come in on Sunday afternoons after church - they had done sat on a pew for an hour, sang "Amazing Grace" and then decided to go haggle a discount out of a commission based retail worker who was standing on her feet on a Sunday afternoon.
So I thought maybe this was one of those experiences that was unique to retail and didn't occur elsewhere. The Aurora Borealis of post-holiday rude folks.
Until a few years ago, in a non-retail field, the phone rang during the first week of January. My friend hung up the phone and shook her head.
"Wow, what got into them?" she had said more to herself than to anyone.
The memo had been sent out that everyone could return to their regular scheduled attitudes. No more joy, no more spirit. If you were nasty and snarky before, be advised - the holidays are over, carry on with your rudeness.
This year, I am not going to be shocked by the rudeness; if anything, I am expecting it.
Which is why I am planning to avoid most people at least until the end of February or the diets wear off, which ever comes first.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist and author of the recently e-published novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."