Sweet Insincerity. LIGHTLY

RECENTLY I kept track of the number of times in one day that someone told me to ``Have a good day.'' Up until 2 p.m. it was 18 times, which just about reaches the level of tolerance for any law-abiding citizen. I lost track after someone said, ``Have a nice day,'' instead of ``Have a good day.'' The word ``nice'' has a pink-ribbon sound that sets my teeth on edge. I'm not sure when the omniscient and long-winded version of ``Good day'' got started, but I have noticed it over the last few years with ever-mounting aversion and a continuing urge to stick my finger in the speaker's eye. I suppose it is better than people hoping you have a lousy day, or suggesting you stick your head in a pickle crock.

The trouble is, there is something about the way ``Have a good day'' is said which indicates no real concern whether you have a good day or not. Actors say, ``Go break a leg,'' but they don't mean that, either. Maybe sweet insincerity is just more tolerable than candor.

As a sample of how meaningless this pronouncement has become, once I was discussing with the Internal Revenue Service a mistake that was to cost me $3,000, and the agent rang off with ``You have a good day, now!'' In like manner I was wished a good day by a lady after she backed into my car at a parking lot, which cost me $185.57. I suppose the day could have been worse, but it could have been better without her insipid command.

No doubt this all stems from an effort to be polite in a world where politeness is vanishing faster than service at a gas station. (Remember back when they used to be called service stations?) But the human psyche can stand only so much platitude before the social graces break down and someone gets a pie in the face.

One day our standard greeting may change to something else. Some save-the-language group organized out of desperation will come up with a new trend like: ``Have a fair-to-middling day.''

It would certainly seem more in keeping with the political outlook of the times.

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