The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

As far as I’m con­cerned, the statute of lim­i­ta­tions on happy new year runs out right about now. It is per­fectly ac­cept­able for peo­ple to greet each other with the tra­di­tional wish of good times for the year ahead while Christ­mas’s mo­tor is still run­ning, but after that the win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for happy new year is small. And right now, for most right-minded peo­ple, it’s closed.

The funny thing about new years wishes is that when they are de­liv­ered too late, they have an odd power to in­fu­ri­ate. I used to think it was just me, but this year I con­ferred with the cur­mud­geonly Hus­band and dis­cov­ered that he too be­comes ir­ri­tated by peo­ple wish­ing him a happy new year when the cro­cuses are out. I don’t know why, but be­lated good wish rage only seems to ap­ply to happy new year: I didn’t mind in the slight­est when the man in the driv­ers’ li­cence of­fice wished me a happy birth­day a whole week after the event, and it doesn’t bother me at all if peo­ple are still wish­ing each other happy Christ­mas all the way to New Year’s Day. But wish­ing somebody a happy new year when they’ve al­ready dis­pensed with a siz­able chunk of it is just wrong: it sug­gests that you’ve so lit­tle go­ing on in your life that you haven’t even prop­erly en­tered 2015 yet, even though you’ve al­ready lost the weight and paid the credit card bill.

It surely goes with­out say­ing that taxi driv­ers are the worst of­fend­ers in all of this. It is, at this time of year, quite pos­si­ble to travel a con­sid­er­able dis­tance in a taxi with­out ex­chang­ing one word with the driver, only for him to wish you a happy new year as you exit his ve­hi­cle. I can­not be­gin to tell you how livid that makes me: in those three lit­tle words, it is as though this stranger is pass­ing judg­ment on my life and my pre­sumed in­abil­ity to live it to the full. And then, be­cause I am not brave enough to put this stranger straight as to my ex­cit­ing, if largely imag­i­nary life, I mum­ble a re­turn of the greet­ing and in that mo­ment, I not only con­firm his damn­ing opin­ion of me, but I be­gin to doubt my­self if I’m re­ally the vi­va­cious, en­er­getic per­son I imag­ine my­self to be. This is why I gen­er­ally avoid tak­ing taxis at this time of year.

I can­not so eas­ily stop go­ing into shops though. Did any­one else no­tice, while Christ­mas shop­ping last year, that almost ev­ery till op­er­a­tor was wish­ing ei­ther a happy Christ­mas or a good day to ev­ery cus­tomer? It seems that in ad­di­tion to un­ques­tion­ingly adopt­ing Black Fri­day as though it was as na­tive to us as turnips, we’ve also now im­ported whole­sale the Amer­i­can ‘have a nice day’ ap­proach to re­tail. I pre­sume you won’t be sur­prised to learn that sales as­sis­tants wish­ing me a nice day used to have the in­stant ef­fect of ru­in­ing that day for me, though lately, I’ve be­come more san­guine about the prac­tice – partly be­cause be­ing per­pet­u­ally livid is ex­haust­ing, but also be­cause I had a Da­m­a­scene mo­ment at a till in Bloom­ing­dale’s in New York , where two sales staff com­pletely ig­nored me in or­der to com­plete their ram­bling and frankly dull con­ver­sa­tion. Even­tu­ally, when they were good and ready, one of them took my money and stonily ad­vised me to have a nice day. The re­al­iza­tion that this woman was quite pos­si­bly the rudest in the whole world made me re­think the whole have a nice day schtick, so that now, when peo­ple at tills ring it out for me, I as­sume they are do­ing so out of rude­ness, not po­lite­ness, which ac­tu­ally cheers me up a lit­tle.

I am also cheered – per­haps sur­pris­ingly – by the ‘did you get ev­ery­thing you were look­ing for to­day?’ that now seem com­pul­sory for check­out op­er­a­tors in a Cer­tain Su­per­mar­ket. Ob­vi­ously, the re­quest it­self should ir­ri­tate me hugely, but some of the staff have a de­li­cious habit of fol­low­ing it up by trash­ing some as­pect or other of their em­ploy­ers’ business acu­men. If, for ex­am­ple, you com­plain about a prod­uct on sale be­ing too close to its best be­fore date, the women will usu­ally agree that it’s a dis­grace and then vol­un­teer some other piece of de­li­cious in­tel about short­com­ings in the store. And so we bond over aw­ful­ness, and then I go home to eat my chicken – quickly – and to re­flect on the fail­ure of oth­ers. Pro­vided no­body wishes me happy new year on my way out, now that’s a nice day.

Wish­ing some­one a happy new year

when they’ve al­ready dis­pensed with a size­able chunk of it is just

all wrong

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