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[icon] Patti
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Subject:On happiness
Time:01:06 am
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.
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Time:2012-06-22 09:41 am (UTC)
I generally figure that people working customer-facing jobs have to put up with all kinds of crap and it's much more enjoyable for me to be humorous and reasonable about it rather than a dick. Particularly since being a dick doesn't usually get you better service.

My favorite was when I was in a restaurant with some high income and high attitude clientele, and a waitress spilled a bowl of soup on me. She was clearly immediately braced for a pissed off customer about to rip her head off. Instead, I was good tempered about it and I remember pointing out that, in fact, most of the time I had to spill food on myself rather than having people do it for me, so clearly they were a full-service joint.

As for depression itself, I think given that you're living as you choose and things are pretty awesome, there's not a lot of fuel for whatever depressive tendencies might be there.
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Time:2012-06-22 09:59 am (UTC)
I love doing those little things like paying for somebody else's check, buying somebody an anonymous drink, paying the toll for the car behind me (that in particular is often awesome, because many times, watching in the rearview, the person will reach out money, pause, pull it back, listen to the explanation, and then proffer the money again to pay for the car behind them and it keeps rolling on), etc. Sarah (and many other people) likes to joke about my reality-distortion field, because things tend to warp around me until they work out the way I want them to (like last week, when I accidentally booked my flight back from Madison from YAPC for the wrong day, turned up at the airport at the time I wanted to depart anyway, went up to the desk, looked pitiful and wounded (I'd just busted my ankle up), asked nicely, and wound up not only getting home an hour earlier than I'd wanted to and with no change fee but having the desk agent apologize profusely to me for not being able to put me in first class) but I solemnly swear that the Reality Distortion Field is just the result of not being an asshole to the people whom I'm asking to do those things for me.

...mind you, the fact that I kind of have a natural 18 for my CHA stat helps a lot, but on the whole, Not Being An Asshole gets you really far in life. When one is in a situation like at your hotel, it is amazing how much a friendly smile, a "I know it's not your fault! Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you help me", and a sincere thank-you for the effort people are making on your behalf will get you people bending over backwards to fix things for you, and often throw in a bunch of extras just as a thank you for not making their day worse! And even if it doesn't work out the way you want it to work out, you can at least bask in the righteous glow of knowing that the other person is going to go home, tell their partner/significant other/friend/family/etc, "you would not believe the awesome customer I had today."

I do not manage "be cheerful and not grumpy" all the time, especially when dealing with the medical profession or when I'm having a really bad day, but I try super hard to watch myself on those days because I know I tend towards grumpy when I feel like shit, and it just lifts my mood a little bit every time I see someone visibly but silently appreciating the effort. It's a good way to improve my own mood, actually: when I'm feeling the worst is when I force myself to be the kindest to others, and it can definitely help.

Which is all a longwinded way of saying, I totally agree!
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Time:2012-06-22 03:36 pm (UTC)
Keep in mind also that you-know-who (I shall follow your lead here on referencing) grew up in an era when depression wasn't exactly recognized as anything but a personal failing, if at all. You also are a bit more self-aware than the average bear. For instance: you took control of your ADD behaviors and made them work for you rather than let them take you over - and as I recall, this was as ADD was just getting national recognition as a something-one-might-want-to-treat. I remember many years ago you talking about how every so often, you needed to "create a crisis" so you could pour your focus and your energy into it, and because you'd been the one to create it, you were more in control of resolving it. You didn't just allow yourself to "find" yourself in a crisis.

I remember following my ex-h through his ADD diagnosis. I'm pretty sure I have it too, though probably to a slightly lesser extent. The difference between us was how we handled it. For me and the work I do, having ADD is almost a survival skill. I also have several hobbies I go between. I make lists each and every day of the things that have to get done. And so forth. At least at the time, he wasn't making lists, checking calendars, and managed to hold things together for work but wasn't always able to keep it up at home. I ended up being responsible not just for my lists and calendar but his as well.

I'm not saying you definitely have the same kind of depression he had. I'm just saying it's possible to have it, but for it to be managed entirely differently.
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(Deleted comment)
Time:2012-06-22 04:45 pm (UTC)
You inspire me not just to do nice things, but more importantly, to have a cheerful attitude. That's not just healthy for myself, but spreads to others in ways that people never realize.

Edited at 2012-06-23 08:04 am (UTC)
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Time:2012-06-23 12:47 am (UTC)
Many years ago, you gave me a box and said "these are yours" in a way that made me think I'd left something somewhere and you were returning it. But when I opened the box, there were these crazy dangly earrings in it - made out of pieces of egg noodles shellacked and painted. (The company is called Pastabilities, or similar.) You saw them and bought them for me "just because" - you knew I'd get a kick out of them, and I did! I still have those earrings, and I think of your kindness every time I look at them. I try to emulate this action when I can - when I can afford it, when I see something I know someone else will love.
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[icon] Patti
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View:Website (pattib.org).