Month of Meltdowns

Greg Dawson is feeling the heat of a New Year’s meltdown.

Happy New Year! Let’s hear it for 2016—Year of the Monkey! Woo-hoo!

Now can I get some love for…January? I didn’t think so.

In The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot poeticized that “April is the cruelest month,” but that was just his personal opinion. I did extensive research on the Internet and it shows that January is the worst month. BuzzFeed calls it “the month of lost dreams.” 

I call it a four-week hangover. A 31-day cold shower. A month of Mondays.

There are so many reasons to hate January. Everyone’s sick. You have post-Christmas bloat from too many treats. So does your dog. Obnoxious sales. Mountains of trash. School exams. No fun holidays. Glitter and packing peanuts everywhere. You realize you broke every resolution from last year. 

Still, why can’t January be the fresh start, the clean slate, the tabula rasa the calendar says it should be? Why on Jan.1 are you more likely to be filled with a sense of dread and foreboding than to be turning cartwheels —aside from the fact you packed on 10 pounds and can’t do a cartwheel without hurting yourself?


“Our practice slows down in November because a lot of family conflicts and issues are put on hold for the holidays,” says Winter Park psychologist Deborah Day. “It picks back up in January. Boots hit the ground running. Get the kids back in school, and now I want a divorce.”

My fuse is very short in January. My patience for BS is paper thin. My threshold of psychic pain is low. I am ready to blow at any moment.

“January is very stressful financially,” says Day. “Higher deductibles for insurance. You may owe taxes and are counting down to April. You have to start paying for all the holiday shopping you did starting in November.”

But it’s not really the money. “That’s just a triggering event for cumulative stressors in your life,” Day says. “A small amount of money can be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Indeed, January is the month I’m most likely to melt down and go off at an innocent cashier or blameless customer service rep over a small amount of money, which is all I have left after the holidays.

The last time I blew up was over a $19.95 charge on my credit card by an online people locator service. I had paid 95 cents to search for one person, being careful not—N-O-T—to click the box 
for a “membership” at $19.95 per month. Which of course is what appeared on my credit card bill.

Ron Burley, a national consumer expert, lists seven things you, as an outraged customer, should never say to a customer service rep:
1) You’re contacting a lawyer.
2) You’re going to get the CSR fired.
3) You’re going to bankrupt the company.
4) You’re never shopping there again.
5) You’re going to contact the media.
6) You’re going to kill the CSR or anyone else.
7) Any sort of profanity, sexual innuendo or bigotry.

In the series of tumultuous calls it took to get the company to reverse the $19.95 charge, I violated numbers 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 (profanity only) on Burley’s list. You’d think I would have learned by now how to deal with nickel-dime adversity. 

My first consumer meltdown happened when I was 15. I was suckered into joining the Columbia Record Club by the offer of six LP records for $1.99. Being 15, I failed to read the fine print obligating me to buy six more albums at the regular price, plus shipping and handling.

I called the company in Terre Haute, Ind., to explain that I was 15, did not read the fine print, and due to a small allowance did not have the money to pay for records I did not want like George Maharis Sings, Si Zentner and his Orchestra and The Theme from Ben Casey.

I shouted into the phone for five minutes before the man on the other end hung up on me. Fast-forward 50 years and little has changed. I am still going ballistic and bellowing into the phone when provoked by MORONS stealing my money.

I just know that sometime in this month of Mondays an obtuse CSR is going to light my short fuse and the sky over my house will light up like the Fourth of July. My New Year’s resolution is to somehow get through the first month of 2016 without making a monkey out of myself. Again. 

Categories: Column