Archive for the ‘a weird thing that I did’ Category

While I would not argue that my most defining quality is excessive laziness, I have not yet gotten, and hope never to get, to a point where I wear sweat pants in public. Partially this is because I don’t really like to wear sneakers, and heels with sweatpants strikes me as trashy in a way you have to be truly exceptional to pull off; additionally, the effort it would take to find a pair of sweatpants that don’t have something written across the ass seems in violation of the entire spirit of sweatpants.

So on those days when I can’t be bothered to put on clothes but still must leave the house, I wear overalls. Overalls capture the same laissez-faire attitude of sweatpants, but still get you credit for actually having gotten dressed.  The overalls I have are particularly fetching, because they are the striped sort (which you should be mentally pronouncing with two syllables – “stry-ped”), of the kind associated with train engineers, and with tiny children pretending to be train engineers.

It was these overalls I wore last Monday. I’d had some fancy plans – and a correspondingly fancy outfit – all laid out for the day, but these went astray due to an incredibly terrible sore throat. This would have been unfortunate in and of itself, but it was made ever the more unfortunater by a lack of planning ahead, which left me in the house with no food with soothing recuperative powers, no medicine, and, most importantly, no cat food for Oola’s breakfast the following day; though I most likely would have survived the discomforts caused by the first two, I can’t even imagine the havoc Oola would wreak if denied breakfast.

And this is why I and my overalls shuffled through the streets of Cambridge, first to the vet to buy Oola’s prescription cat food, and then to the new Whole Foods. Which, thanks to some spectacularly convenient urban planning, is directly across the street from the vet’s office. Never have I have I been so glad for corporate machinations and the slow death of Main Street.

As I made my way home, burdened with 4 cans of cat food, three cans of soup, and a two turtle doves, I heard someone call out “Miss!” behind me; tired though I was, I still turned around, and beheld a gentleman, arm stretched out toward me, holding, as though I had dropped it, a stry-ped engineers cap.

“Oh, that’s not mine,” I responded, hopefully appreciatively.

“But it matches your outfit,” he replied, stretching his arm even closer.

To him, this was a clear indication that the cap was the rightful property of mine.

I, however, was skeptical. “Are you sure?” I asked, somewhat curious about why he was apparently walking around with an engineer’s cap he didn’t want, and how he might have disposed of it had I not walked past him right then.

“Yes. Here, it’s yours.” And so he gave me the hat.

I think a lot of people are going to go through their entire lives without getting an engineer’s hat from a stranger. It took me nearly 40 years to get one, but, having done so, I can tell you for sure : it is absolutely worth the wait.


The plan for this week was that, every morning when I awoke, I should be greeted with applause. As with most plans of such obvious importance, this one evolved from a very serious conversation had while driving around a mall parking lot during the holiday season, at one point during which Dave firmly clapped his hands, creating a very authoritative and satisfying report. (Dave, it should be noted, was not driving.)

I should probably mention that Dave  and I have a long history of clapping in cars together. On our second cross-country journey, we announced our entry into every new State by lightly clapping then pulling our hands back as though ending a game of patty-cake in an abrupt but not unfriendly manner, while saying the same of that State. And I should probably further explain why we started doing that, but the origins of that tradition are lost to the hazy mists of time. All I can offer is that when you’re driving across the country, not to sight-see but simply to get to the other side of the country, you establish a lot of rituals to mark the passage of time spent in the car : not just for entering a new state, but getting back on the highway, turning the page  on your AAA map, making it to the next point on the unbelievably complex schedule of when to smoke without smoking; each accomplishment gets its own ceremony just to celebrate that bit of progress you have made toward your goal.

It was not this sort of ceremonious clap Dave issued in the mall parking lot; nor, I don’t believe, was it laudatory in the traditional sense. However it began, the clap moved quickly into the realm of hypothesis, becoming a potential way to solve all of your problems; not constantly, but if all of your problems could be solved simply by clapping once a minute (and making an accompanying exclamation), happiness could be within everyone’s grasp.

Of course, this would be impractical, and, especially when discussing a hypothetical situation, one must still consider the practical. What about over night? Would you have to wake up every single minute to clap and exclaim? How could that possibly lead to happiness? It probably could not. But we allowed that, instead of clapping overnight, one could simply start the day with a round of applause immediately upon waking, and that would suffice. And so, having so carefully worked out the formula for a happy life, we decided that we would put it to a test : every day for the next week, we would wake up and cheer and give ourselves a round of applause.

While I was serious in undertaking this experiment, I noticed on the first day that I might have to modify the parameters a little bit. Because, although I do have an alarm clock, I actually wake up every day to Oola Belle reminding me that it’s breakfast time, and one of my sterner methods of disciplining the World’s Most Wonderful Kitten is to clap loudly in her face, which she does not enjoy. It cannot be that the secret to happiness is to begin each day by upsetting one’s kitten, and so instead of applauding, I raised my arms overhead exultantly and said yay. With, you know, more gusto than one normally would upon waking.

Ridiculous as I’m sure that sounds, it did actually work. Perhaps because of its ridiculousness; it’s difficult not to enjoy yourself when you’re purposely acting the fool. Briefly, at least. It didn’t last, but even on the days when I was ill, I was still happy to be awake at the outset of the day.

Now that the control period has ended, I must consider how to proceed. The results clearly indicate that, as we supposed, there is a link between applause and happiness. However, confining applause to the morning does not yield sustained happiness. It may be that the original hypothesis is correct – that one must clap frequently throughout the day – but I fear working in a library will make that difficult to test. Or it could be that we had the right idea on the road trip : that I should establish not only more points of celebrations but also more methods. Fortunately I have the research skills necessary to further this experiment; you can expect infrequent field reports on my progress.

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