June 22nd, 2012

On happiness

The other day a coworker and I were walking through San Francisco on our mid-afternoon tea run. We passed a couple of guys on the street and one of them turned to me. "Hey, how about a dance? Just a little one?"

He took my hand, and we spun each other around a couple of times, then exchanged thank-yous and went our separate ways.

Last night when I tried to check into my hotel in Bakersfield, the clerk said, "I'm terribly sorry, but we're oversold tonight and we don't have a room. Would it be OK if we put you up in a different hotel?"

"I guess. Where?"

"Just across the street at the Clarion." I agreed. I'd already paid for the room, so it seemed like they were obligated to find me a place to stay.

She handed me a few chocolate chip cookies from their stash, and then picked up the phone to call them. A tiny part of me wanted to be cranky at her, but a much bigger part realized that it would be the wrong thing to do. It wasn't her fault that the hotel had overbooked itself. Being unpleasant to her wouldn't be fair to her, it wouldn't make me feel any better, and it would do nothing at all to improve the situation.

"I'm terribly sorry, but they're sold out too. Let me call a few other places." Oh dear, this could get interesting. I pulled out my phone and started looking at a map.

Another employee showed up and I asked him if there was big convention or something in Bakersfield. There was. In the meantime, she was not having much luck finding a room-- it seemed like everything was sold out. I decided that pleasant and cheerful needed to be in overdrive at this point, since I wanted her to be highly motivated to bust her butt for me.

"Hey, you can check Barstow if that works. It's on my route and I'm wide awake. I could drive another couple of hours." She called a sister property there, but it was sold out too. The poor girl was frantic now, and was calling every hotel in Bakersfield with no luck. Then she had an idea, and called a small place where she used to work. They had rooms, so she sent me over there.

As I was leaving, she thanked me. "This is the first time I've ever had to walk a customer out, and I had no idea what to expect. You could have been angry and abusive, but you were really nice about it."

"I could have been, and a lot of people would, but that wouldn't have been fun for either of us. I'm sorry you had to do that."

(an older story)

I'm at the Orleans in Vegas, getting ice cream. There's a couple next to me who look to be young newlyweds-- they're holding hands and giggling in that magical crazy-in-love way. Plus, they have sparkly rings.

I'm paying for my purchase with comp points. I hand the cashier my card and say, "Also charge me for whatever that couple just ordered." He seems surprised, but adds their order to my total and charges the whole thing to my card.

I tip him generously, then hightail it out of there before the couple can find out what I've done.

So after my trip to St. Louis, I've been thinking a lot about happiness and whether I have any chance of turning into you-know-who. In particular, I've been monitoring the little things that I do that help keep me happy, and there are a lot of them.

* Say a cheery please and thank you to everyone, especially people who are waiting on you
* Hold the door for whoever is behind you
* Buy gifts for friends, just because
* Be cheerful instead of grumpy (except perhaps in the morning)
* Do nice things for total strangers
* Try to focus on the good parts of every situation, rather than the bad parts
* Delight in the little magical surprises that the world hands to me

Do I have a genetic inclination toward depression? It's possible, though at this point I'd bet against it... I've never really shown any symptoms of it. In fact, the things above seem like exactly the opposite of depression.