Have you noticed how angry everyone is at the moment? There's a palpable, communal rage simmering away just under the surface in Ireland, and it's approaching boiling point.
Of course, we have every right to be angry about the big things: the worsening economy, the incompetent Government, our lost savings and worthless houses (I realise this is probably not helping anyone's anger levels).
But rage is contagious, and as a result, we're furious about everything else, too. We're hacked off about the weather (even though we should be used to rubbish winters in this country), we're angry at the man who works in the post office and breathes loudly through his nose (we used to think it was amusing) and we're furious about that bag of onions coming all the way from New Zealand (but buy them regardless) -- all these little things, which used to simply annoy us, now make our blood boil.
The Irish have always been great at a bit of classic begrudgery, some good old-fashioned nagging and a healthy dose of idle gossip. But never before have we done anger on such a scale. In short, we are all one toe-stubbing away from Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
I overheard two eighty-something ladies on a bus yesterday morning, and their conversation went thus:
"I'm really angry about this Docklands Report Mary*"
"Me too Eithne*. (Pause) What's it all about exactly?"
"I don't know the ins and outs of it, but I'm livid."
(*Names have been changed to protect the subjects from any potential angry retaliation.)
Something's not right here. Old ladies on buses shouldn't be angry. At best they should be mildly irritated by noisy school children, giving out about the rain and the demise of the butter voucher, and casting aspersions on foreigners for no good reason. But the default reaction to everything these days is anger. Road rage has increased dramatically, random acts of violence are up and car horns have never been used quite so liberally.
During the boom times we didn't have too much to be angry about. It was all water off a duck's back because we were all too busy getting on with being grand. Now, let down, confused and anxious, we're even angry about things that haven't changed. A pal told me last week pigeons were making him "really angry". Genuinely, the pigeons. Not bugging him, or freaking him out, but making him angry. Maybe there's something I don't know and the pigeons are stealing his post or making eyes at his girlfriend, but from what I can see they're just doing what they always did. Walking in frenzied circles, getting their feet mangled in chewing gum and wondering why even they don't ever see baby pigeons.
Last week a friend told me that she asked a woman, who works in her management company when she thought a particular broken door, which affected the building, would be repaired. It would appear a lot of people had already asked her the same question, and all I can say, having heard her reaction, is I'm glad we don't have the right to bear arms in this country. She was an angry, angry lady and my mate simply walked in at exactly the wrong time.
So tread carefully people of Ireland, because you just don't know when one ill-timed comment from you might set an angry person off. The outcome could be anything -- a car horn blasted at you, a snappy reply from a shop assistant, or something worse, like my friend Dave, who had a sandwich thrown at him in a deli because he changed his mind about the filling. Yes, do not provoke the angry. Which, in 2010, you can safely assume is just about everybody.