Mon | Jun 18, 2018

Old acquaintance, new style

Published:Saturday | January 5, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal, Contributor

The twelfth of December 2012 (12/12/12) or combinations like 1/1/1 up to twelve are not going to happen for another century. In this context, 2013 is already different. Adding to its uniqueness is that it is an interesting combination of 20 (a "score" as in Lincoln's Gettysburg address "Four score and seven years ago") and 13, deemed an unlucky number.

In fact, there is a word coined especially for people who are afraid of the number 13 and associate it with bad luck. Triskaidekaphobia (first used by Isador Coriat in Abnormal Psychology) combines the Greek words for "three" (tris), "and" (kris) and "ten" (deka) with "phobia" meaning "fear" or "morbid fear". The special fear of Friday 13th is"paraskevidekatriaphobia"or "friggatriskaidekaphobia".While Friday the 13th in any month is the original 'Black Friday', retailers in the United States started calling the day after Thanksgiving 'Black Friday' because of the high volume of sales which took them out of the 'red' and into the 'black' or profit area.

For the superstitious 2013 is expected to bring a full score of bad luck. It also contains two 'black' Fridays that will be double-black. One is in September and the other in December. For shoppers, Black Friday sales will start at midnight on Friday November 28. For the extremely superstitious no predicament can be worse than the one experienced by the gentleman who while dallying with another man's lady in a high-rise apartment heard the front door rattle and was told by the lady, "It is my husband. Jump out of the window quick!" He replied, "But we are on the thirteenth floor!" Scornfully she responded, "What happen? You superstitious?"

Gangnam Style over Auld Lang Syne

Not being superstitious myself (or as one man said, "I'm not superstitious, in fact I believe thirteen is a rather lucky number) I look forward with my usual optimism to whatever 2013 has in store for me. What is interesting is that old acquaintance seems to have been forgotten, bypassed and deliberately discarded in favour of Gangnam Style. According to Britain's Independent newspaper, "Karaoke fans rejected the traditional sentiments of Auld Lang Syne this New Year and saw in 2013 Gangnam Style, according to a new poll. The K-Pop rapper Psy's worldwide hit single topped a chart to find the most sung song in the UK on New Year's Eve. It accounted for almost a quarter (23%) of the 100,000 songs sung on Monday on Karaoke firm Lucky Voice's online service. It pushed the traditional favourite, based on a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns, off the top spot for the first time since 2005."

The Burns poem was the song I grew up with. Even when I was a little bit puzzled by what exactly it meant, I still found myself singing the version we learnt at primary school, "Should old acquaintance be forgot,/ and never brought to mind? / Shouldold acquaintance be forgot,/ In the days of auld lang syne." Then the chorus, "For auld lang syne, mydear,/ for auld lang syne, / we'll take a cup of kindness yet,/ for auld lang syne." Over the years it was the song with which we greeted midnight on New Year's Eve or Old Year's Night. It accompanied me into every New Year's journey for most of my life.

This year while Times Square in New York was rocking to Gangnam Style, I was in a different neighbourhood - several different places in fact. For a short while I was in Park Place, then I went by chance to Boardwark, and headed past Baltic to Illinois via the Reading Railroad. I went to jail for raiding the Community Chest and ended up bankrupt at the start of 2013. Despite these travels and travails, I felt blessed and filled with a monopoly of good cheer. The presence of my family and the joy of being together at the start of the year more than compensated for the disappointment of losing my auld acquaintance Burns and reading into that act of drastic change that my way of life has fallen into the sea. The blister will take some time to heal even with a yellow leaf poultice but the lesson will remain for the rest of my life. Times change and so must we.

Burns gave us another lesson for the New Year that we should keep forever in mind and not replace by any Korean import. While ploughing a field, Burns overturned the nest of a mouse and saw in that act a lesson in life, for life. In his poem To A Mouse (1786) Burns observed, "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]/ An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,/ For promised joy." In a way it echoes the Jewish saying, "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."

He even laughed about his Second Coming. The boss of a headhunting or recruitment agency who made it through the Pearly Gates, hearing that that there were plans afoot for a second visit to earth, went to Jesus with two offers, one for a job in Russia for $2,000 a week and another for a posting in Jerusalem at $200,000 a week. Without any hesitation, Jesus said, "I'll take the one in Russia." The headhunter replied, "But the job in Russia is only $2,000 while the one in Jerusalem is worth $200,000." "Yeah," Jesus replied firmly, "But I worked there before and they hammered me with tacks."

Tony Deyal was last seen quaffing a cup of kindness and hoping that he can make it last for the whole year.