As a secretary, I see the UPS guy a lot, probably several times a week.
Our regular UPS guy is one of the most annoying human beings in the history of humans, and I'm including Gilbert Gottfried in that list.
He is relentlessly, single-mindedly optimistic. But, not in a good way. He is a one-way trainwreck of false positivity - so assertively happy that you end up thinking something has to be seriously wrong with him.
For six years, I've been having the same conversation with this man. He hands me his device to sign for a delivery package and says,
"Isn't this the best day you've ever had?"
At first, not knowing him and as a polite person, I would agree. "Oh, yes, it's lovely."
And, he would say, aggressively, "Lovely? No, it's the very best day in the history of days, isn't it?"
Being a normal social being who wasn't going to argue about what day might be the best in history, I would say, "Yes, it's a great day."
Occasionally, he'd vary his patter, "What a great day. Aren't you happy to have a day like this?" And, I'd always say yes, but that wasn't good enough. He'd challenge. "You'll never have a better day, isn't that right?"
The man is a happiness bully.
After a year of this, I decided to try and see if he could take another human being's feelings into consideration when pushing his Best Day philosophy. "Yes, it's a fantastic day, but I have a terrible cold."
"Aren't you happy to have this day with a cold?"
"Isn't this rain the best you've ever seen?"
"Isn't this power-outage the most wonderful one that ever existed?"
He never smiles.
A few times, I'd ignore his happy-day question. But, that wasn't acceptable; bullies don't allow you to let things go. He would repeat his question, insistent.
"I said, isn't this flood the best flood that ever happened?"
After a while, I started to avoid him. When I saw the truck pull up, I'd grab the phone and pretend to have a conversation so that I didn't have to talk to him. I'd rush to the bathroom and let somebody else sign. I'd act engrossed in paperwork and not look up.
Eventually I accepted a promotion at a school not on his route, and I didn't have to see him again. I was relieved.
When I again got a promotion, this time to high school, I was back on his route. My heart sank when he walked in. Despite my remembering him, he, naturally, had absolutely no idea who I was. People are not important to him, except for their usefulness in validating his philosophy that every day is the best day ever.
The other day I was back to work after chemo and feeling a bit tired and cancerish. I saw his truck pull up, and I sighed.
I decided to try an experiment. I was going to extract a glimmer of feeling from that guy - a tiny speck of humanity that showed he knew that not every day is the best day of a person's life.
I was going to play the cancer card.
The guy came in and recited his line,
"Isn't this the very best day you've ever had?"
I shook my head sadly.
"No? What do you mean? This is the greatest day ever; the best you'll ever have!"
"Well," I said, looking downcast. "It's looking like I won't have that many days left."
"What does that mean, there are always more great days!"
"Well, no. I have cancer."
"But, you are going to be cured, right?"
"No. I've just been diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I am going to die."
Will it work? Will he get it? Will he show a glimmer of compassion?
Will the idea that bad news can happen, that not every day is a perfect jewel, sink in? Will he realize that it is okay - even human - to experience and accept the downside of life, and that it doesn't mean you are vulnerable or there is something wrong with you?
Will he say, "I'm sorry you got such bad news"?
Will he be humane?
What do you think?
Here's what he said upon finding out I had terminal cancer:
"Well, they have great treatments now and don't you think this is the greatest day - ever?"
Cancer card - Fail.
Reaching the human heart?
Being ADD, being me, I live each day as it is. I don't plan much, I never have. I don't worry about the far future. Nobody has ever had to teach me to smell the roses. Every day, I walk outside and see something beautiful, and appreciate it; the light shining through a leaf, the curve of my son's cheek, a baby laughing. Sometimes I'm sad, sometimes I'm scared, sometimes I'm angry, lots of times (my family will attest) I'm irritated. But, each day does have value.
He's right. We only have one day. But life, in all its infinite beauty, has sad moments too.
Is every day the greatest day ever?
Not on your life. And, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that.