Around lunchtime Wednesday in Times Square, a crowd gathered to feed bad memories into a shredder.
The ceremony marked Good Riddance Day, a sort of ritual cleansing that harkens to a Latin American tradition of setting fire to a giant doll stuffed with the names of things you're happy never to see again.
Hundreds of mal-wishers showed up in Manhattan to say goodbye to the bad news that was 2011.
As you can imagine, some of their messages were heartrending:
"2 failed IVF attempts and the sadness when my cat Oscar died :o(," someone from West Sussex, England wrote.
"Ill health, 2 weeks in coma. 12 weeks off work," went a Canadian's castings.
An additional 1,300 good riddances arrived by e-mail at the site of the event's sponsor, the Times Square Alliance. They open a window into the mood of our times.
Many farewells were personal. A Brooklyn scribe said, "Enough," to shingles. Someone from Arnhem in the Netherlands said tot ziens to a smoking habit.
Many good-byes were bid to things that may not really be gone, like the "boring dead-end job," that a writer from Manitowoc, Wis., cited. Or "my teen daughter's mental illness," which a Long Islander sought to exorcise.
Though the ceremony took place in New York, Philadelphia was well represented.
"My dumb fiancé," began one Philly woman.
"Two months before the wedding he up and disappears. There was never any discussion or fighting. The coward made up his own tale to tell his friends and family as all of his stuff is made up."
The Pennsylvania suburbs weighed in as well.
A correspondent from West Chester bemoaned the "three lean years waiting for my disability claim to be decided in my favor."
Another West Chester resident toasted "friendships of days gone past."
Some of the messages were global, high-minded, like those happy to see the last of Mubarak in Egypt and Gadhafi in Libya.
Some wishes contained baggage held long and tight. From Perth, Australia, came this cryptic rant: "Asking a lady if the young girl with her was her daughter, implying that the lady was OLD enough to have such a grown-up daughter. It was just a friend of hers, around the same age as her."
This tradition, in its fifth year, is managed by the Times Square Alliance, a downtown association similar to the Center City District. The alliance brought a shredder, mallet, and dump truck to the festivities. Its website described the cleansing opportunity this way:
"Whether you're bidding farewell to pink slips or parking tickets, credit cards or Valentine's Day cards, the 1 percent or the 99 percent, your bad memories from 2011 will be destroyed, never to be seen again."
It seemed so healthy I started thinking what I'd like to keep in the rear-view mirror - people, places, and things both gone and not gone fast enough:
All news about the Kardashians.
Naked bike rides.
The statute of limitations for any crime against a kid.
Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Pajamas in public.
Athletes thanking God.
Tax breaks for the rich.
No Child Left Behind.
Traffic reporters who talk of "accidents working." Accidents are perfect examples of when things are NOT working.
Lower Merion webcam suits.
I feel better already. Did I mention cheese food?