A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Happy Sweater

Today I received a bit of good news, so I decided to put on my happy sweater.

This is an item that I bought a few years ago. I was working nights in the post office general mail facility, trying to make enough money to take care of myself and two kids while studying electrical engineering technology fulltime. I was also substitute teaching, so most of the time I was walking around like a zombie.

I used to work with a woman named Linda, who was my age, never married, funny, kind, and obese. Linda was so fat that when we stood up to pass the mail at the end of the shift, she would remain seated. On icy nights, she would command someone to walk her to her car, holding her arm. If she were ever to fall down, she'd never get up.

Linda owned her own home, and as a career USPS employee was well set for life. But perhaps because of her weight, resultant health and self-image issues, and loneliness, she had developed a sort of gruff manner. She was the self-appointed boss of the section, and everyone bowed to her. She liked me, and we were the same age, but since she was bossy and a career employee, while I was only a casual, she patronized me a bit.

"Smile! Cheer up!" she would order every time she passed me.

"Linda, I'm the happiest person I know," I would answer patiently. "I can't help it if the corners of my mouth turn down, or if I'm tired, or whatever. But honestly, I'm not in need of cheering up." My protests had exactly no effect on her.

So I went out and bought a red sweater. I wore it to work and I told Linda, "This is my Happy Sweater. Whenever I'm wearing it, it means I'm happy. So you don't have to tell me to cheer up. Red means Cicily is already very, very happy."

It took a little work, but eventually I trained her. I had to wear the sweater a lot. She would walk by, and I would point to my chest. She'd shake her head and roll her eyes, but she stopped ordering me to smile.

Not long afterward, I got hired by Intel, and I left the Post Office. I haven't seen Linda since. But I still think of her every time I pull out this sweater. And these days, I'm happy a whole lot.


Anonymous Christopher said...

and I'm happy too, now that I seem to have regained internet capability. I'll forego the sweater, though. After all, this has taken me roughly 20 hours -- so one should understand "happy" in the above sentence to mean "less grouchy than two hours ago or so."

4:08 PM  

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