"You're always happy," a passenger says, standing at the front. It's dark and rainy out, in the upper reaches of Aurora.
"I can't help myself!"
"That makes happy people happier, but sometimes it makes miserable people more miserable."
"I know. I don't wanna do that. What's the solution?"
"Sympathy, to have sympathy, to care."
"I agree," I say. "Honesty."
"Yeah, no bullshit sympathy."
"I don't wanna pity them, I wanna understand them."
"You care about 'em. That makes it work. Don't listen to me though, I'm crazy."
"Oh, I think I'm the one who's crazy. I love this stuff, all this." Gesturing.
"I had four outta five psychiatrists tell me I was crazy."
"You and me both, man!"
The man behind him has a comment he'd like to add: "ISS DA SANE ONES YOU GOTS TA WATCH OUT FO'!"
I'm too nonplussed to respond at the time, but after I stop laughing I consider how much merit there is in his statement. We're at the tail end of the long trip out, over the full length of the corridor, and on board we've had all manner of miscreants, ne'er-do-wells, JDs and beggar-philosophers. The only person to snap rudely at me was a well-to-do County employee, upset in her misinterpretation of the schedule (her coworker behind her attempted to educate her, to no avail).
Recently I was struck by how rarely people are annoyed by my ebullient attitude. Why don't they get aggravated? Day after day, listening to the predictably buoyant announcements, enthusiastic greetings, that face in the mirror up there, sometimes unable to hide a smile...
It's easy to take issue with the happiness of others when it's couched in ignorance. In those instances it isn't really their happiness which irks us- it's their naivete, their entitlement, narrow-mindedness- whatever the other element is. Based on my own experience, I'm confident my attitude doesn't stem from such origins. But how do my passengers know that? They don't know my life story, after all.
I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm driving a public bus. And not just any bus, but these routes, in those neighborhoods... my fellow drivers and myself are doing a job with so much exposure to life that a Pollyanna outlook is all but impossible. I have tremendous respect for the other operators whose stellar perspectives far eclipse my own; the janitorial people I talk to, those in medical, construction, postal, and the like, or homelessness; to see smiles on these weathered and overworked faces moves me to my core. If someone doing heavy work is obviously, truthfully happy, (s)he possess a resilience that's real by virtue of the fact that you can see it. It's self-evident, and it inspires me.*
Or, to put it in more breviloquent terms, I'll quote one of my passengers:
"Hey, the bus driver's having a good day. That means it's a good fuckin' day."
*This is a continuation of earlier thoughts. If you haven't already, check out an earlier post from last year for discussion on different forms of positivity and how to define realistic optimism.