I was in the storage closet at work, re-stocking potato chips, when for the first time, I noticed a list on the wall. Looking closer, I found that most of my fellow employees had their names written down, followed by their birth dates. No wonder they’re able to remember when everyone’s birthdays are. My co-workers love just about any excuse to get Anita to bring in cake, or for someone to order one of those gigantic cookies. A day with extra dessert is always a good day.
Checking the list again, to my intense satisfaction, I realized that my name wasn’t yet on it. Even knowing that I’ve been asked more than once (and answered truthfully), it still hasn’t been written down on that particular list. You’re probably surprised that this pleased me, but I assure you, my friends are not. Actually, in this case, it doesn’t really matter, because my co-workers rarely sing anyone “Happy Birthday”, with the exception of my boss. They just make sure there’s some kind of cake or cookies to share around.
It’s partially Eddie’s fault, you know. I’ve always loved to have my family sing the birthday song to me, on that special day, or even by a group of friends. But my horror of being sung to, in a public place, was probably worsened by him.
My cousin-in-law, before he married my cousin, was already a good friend of our family’s. And then, one year, I made a big mistake. Out of the goodness of my helpful, friendly heart, I agreed to pick him up from the Atlanta airport. On my birthday. I drove to Atlanta, all unsuspecting, and met him at the terminal. If you’ve ever been in ATL or any other large airport, you’ll be familiar with those areas that are wall-to-wall escalators, each one of them about a mile long.
While ascending the escalator, and completely unable to escape, Eddie took the opportunity to bellow to the masses, “Everybody! Today is Rachel’s birthday!”, and a nearby person shouted back, “Should we sing to her?”. Ready to sink through the floor, I had to stand there and take it, while an airport-full of people sang me Happy Birthday. My memory has blanked out a bit on what followed, but I was probably torn between chewing him out and never wanting to speak to him again, but he didn’t care, he thought it was the greatest prank ever. Resulting from this, I swore that I’d never go to the airport on my birthday again, because no one can be trusted in this respect.
Do you have those friends that take you to a restaurant on your birthday, and then in order to get you some free cake, they call in the waiters to sing you the stupidest rendition of Happy Birthday ever? My family knows better.
My friends did it to me, once, a few years ago, at Outback Steakhouse. Of course, they thought it was hilarious, but I was in that wonderful quandary that every adult, who’s easily embarrassed by being the center of attention, goes through. You want to act like a two year old and throw something at your friends, and at the singing waiters, and you know they’re (supposedly) trying to do something nice for you. But since you think it’s the most horrifying ordeal imaginable, you have a very hard time thinking well of them.
Now, if you have friends that do it on purpose (I have some of those, too), just to embarrass you, then the solution is never to go out to eat with them, anywhere near your birth month. The other option is to threaten the daylights out of your safer friends, and then beat them to the restaurant to lay down the law to the wait staff. I have no shame in admitting that I did that, the year before I left for Australia. We were going to Red Lobster for my birthday dinner, and unable to completely trust my friends to try something, I arrived fifteen minutes early, to talk to the hostess. “If it’s my birthday, then what the birthday girl says is what goes, right?”, I wanted to know. Admittedly, she probably thought I was crazy, but I explained to her that no matter what my friends used as bribes, I did not want anyone singing to me.
Remember, I said I loved having my friends sing to me (preferably in a non-public place), or having my family sing to me? This is true. Some of my happiest birthday memories involve being surrounded by my loved ones and then blowing out the candles, even when there are more and more to deal with. This is not an age issue. Age is just a number, and for the record, I turn 33 this year. Doesn’t bother me a bit.
It’s probably the same reason I’m not a big prankster. While many of them are funny, I tend to think that a lot of them are just plain mean. And believe you me, I can tell you some crazy prank stories from when I was a summer staffer. But I think that you should be pulling pranks on the people that enjoy them. If you’re playing tricks on someone that will cry, then you shouldn’t be doing it. I don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings, and sometimes, people are just hiding their horror over what you’ve done. If you rub salt in the wound by doing something you KNOW they will hate, then my policy is to not do it.
Now, I know that some of you are already gearing up to ask me when my birthday is, but it isn’t very soon, and I won’t be telling you right now. You can probably figure it out, if you search the backlog on this blog, far enough. But if someone asks me in person, I immediately look them over good and hard, wondering if they plan to use this knowledge for good or evil. I know the types, I’m not stupid. : )
This year, once again, I am going to thoroughly enjoy being home with my family on that special day. I will also, probably, have a group birthday celebration with some of my best friends, up north. But when I’m with them, there won’t be any singing, because they’re even worse than I am about public moments of embarrassment. You think I’m kidding? You have no idea.
So, for all you birthday monsters out there, save your singing for those that enjoy it. Consider the feelings of those you’re “celebrating”. If they protest halfheartedly, they might just mean it, but not want to show how much it bothers them. But I’m not really worried that my co-workers will try it, as I said before. They still have to remember to ask when my birthday is. Maybe I’ll get lucky, and they’ll forget until after it’s over. : )