Enough of That, Let's Talk About Happiness
Posted: April 21, 2022
To create laughter out of ordinary tedium is a privilege. There’s nothing better.…
You come to a point in life when the days of wild uninhibited sex seem to be behind you, either because she is no longer moved by your singing, “Oh my love, my darling, I hunger for your touch,” or the flaming torches on the bedposts seem hazardous and you put the theatrics aside and discover that holding her close and stroking her arm are just as wonderful, perhaps even more so.
Small things can make me so happy. I’ve recently discovered this. I once had a book that was No. 1 on the Times best-seller list and of course I’d love to have another, but meanwhile I made myself tremendously happy the other day by switching from a $110 room in an old run-down hotel to a $170 room in a new hotel. I was feeling low because I’d been away from my sweetie for two weeks and was on the road and the $110 room was small, not big enough to swing a cat, and the shower was tricky and the desk chair wouldn’t raise so I was typing at an unnatural angle and there was no room service so I switched to a hotel two blocks away that was spacious and light and the shower and desk chair worked and a cheerful woman brought me a BLT and coffee, and I felt absolutely wonderful. I believe the word would be “exalted.” Sixty dollars is not too much to pay for exaltation in my book.
When I say that small things make me happy, I’m not talking about sunrises or puppy dogs or the hugs of small children. Sunrises only remind me of a job I had in college as a parking lot attendant, a job that started at 5 a.m. and so I saw many sunrises while dealing with angry parkers who were late for class and didn’t want to follow directions and I learned that highly educated persons can be jerks. Sunrises also remind me of the photographers who’ve shown me pictures they took of a sunrise that they were terribly proud of as if it were the Resurrection. I am not fond of dogs, their affection is random and they don’t belong indoors, they should be out in the yard guarding the chicken coop. As for small children, they don’t cozy up the way I did when I was small and harkened to my elders’ stories. Small children now are bent over a computer screen fascinated by vulgarity and violence, learning things they can use to horrify their parents.
No, I’m talking about my first afternoon in the $170 hotel room when I realized I had lost one of my hearing devices and I conducted an exhaustive search of the floor, my suitcase, my briefcase, the bathroom, the bed where I’d taken a nap, and finally accepted that I had just lost a good deal of money, which cast a shadow on my exaltation, and then my phone rang, it was my daughter, I put the phone to my ear, and I felt the missing hearing aid. It was in my ear.
I realize this makes me look like a dimwit who needs to be put under guardianship, but I don’t care. I was completely re-exalted. I was delighted.
Delight does not come easily to a man approaching 80. I have not been delighted by ballet in a very long time, if ever. I’ve been disappointed by Dostoevsky. I feel no desire to sit through Handel’s Messiah again. I don’t feel renewed by Renoir. I even feel my enthusiasm for college hockey is waning.
But last week, at a large clinic for a physical checkup, I got a chest X-ray — along with a line of other men who stripped to the waist — was marched into the room by a young woman who lined me up facing forward, then turned to the side, and led me out to make room for the next customer. It was an assembly line. I said to her on my way out, “You don’t get to really know people very well in your job, do you.” I went into the dressing room to get dressed and I could hear her repeating my line to the other technicians and they were screaming with laughter. She told it over and over and told it very well. It seemed to make their day. It made mine. To create laughter out of ordinary tedium is a privilege. There’s nothing better.
Garrison Keillor © 04.19.22
America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR.