Happy old year

WHEN shouts of ``Happy new year'' resound in the air around me, my guilt feelings begin rising to the surface. Here another whole year has passed, my conscience whispers, and you haven't done anything to improve yourself! Usually this starts me making new year's resolutions. Evidently this urge is based on the superstition that by passing through the first day of January somehow all one's dross turns to gold. One no longer leaves his dirty socks on the floor of the closet and no longer toots his horn at stupid motorists.

Just making the resolutions soothes a person's frustrations, even if the resolutions are lost along the paths of January. This year I am faced with some doubts. This is because I accidently unearthed a yellowed record of resolutions made in past years. By ``yellowed'' I refer only to the age of the paper and not my own record of cowardice. A sample of the listing follows.

No. 1: ``Be nicer to S.'' I don't even remember who S referred to. Possibly it was Saucy our cat; but Saucy was completely indifferent to my attitude at all times, so there was no imperative to improve it. Also, since Saucy could neither read nor write there was no point in my disguising her name by using just the letter S. So much for being nicer to S.

No. 2: ``Fix hairdryer.'' I do remember the hairdryer incident, which soured me on resolutions for months on end. In order to fix it I had to unscrew one side and tap something with a small tack hammer, which I did, using the garage floor to tap on. The telephone interrupted me and I forgot my task for several hours, during which time the problem of the hairdryer was solved by someone backing the car over it.

There were other resolutions dealing with the answering of letters. It usually took me so long to face up to my duties that by the time people got answers they would have forgotten they had written to me.

Looking at the long and puzzling list of past resolutions, I realized that the old times were full of lots of things which seemed an improvement on our modern ways. Oh, I resolve to keep on trying to be better. It's just that I've found it is possible to improve by looking in both directions -- both ahead and behind.

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