August 8

Happiness Happens Day


The Happiness Gang is out again.

You only want to scavenge food, but they’re practically blocking your path, pacing senselessly up and down the cracked sidewalk, holding up their silly handmade signs.

“Smile,” one of the signs declares, “you’re still alive!”

The one time you were tempted to engage with a protester, back before The Collapse, you’d flipped your middle finger at some guy who proudly marched in front of the city courthouse, an offensive sign held high.  “Is that your IQ?” the guy had responded to your gesture, shaking his sign like he’d just won some important victory.

The court decision actually took that guy’s side — but a fat lot of good it did anyone, either way.  A few months later, it was clear both sides had lost.

So the protest was pointless.  Engaging with protesters was pointless.

But now you feel your middle finger twitching.

Maybe.  Maybe, regardless of outcome, it just feels better to express your opinion.

“Idiot,” you say to a nearby woman.  There’s a yellow happy face painted beside the words on her sign, and she’d been wearing a similar expression of her own.  You notice a slight flinch at the corners of her mouth.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”   She steps aside from the line of happy friends she’s marching with to address you.  Her smile returns with renewed strength, and the expression now strikes you as smug and superior.

“Are you sorry?  I guess you’d rather I didn’t face reality.”

Direct hit.  Her smile has really gone away this time, and you want to think “mission accomplished” and move on.

But her lower lip presses out in a pout.  She feels sorry for you.  “As long as there’s life, there’s hope,” she says.

“Yeah, I think I saw that on another sign.”

“Doesn’t make it untrue.”

The woman’s blissful ignorance really gets to you.  After everything the world has been through, she couldn’t have escaped unscathed.  “I lost everything,” you tell her.  Each item you list should be a sledgehammer battering at the wall of her clueless optimism.  “My house.  All my money and possessions.”

“Well,” the woman says, “the same thing happened to people before.   People lost jobs and couldn’t pay their mortgage.  They made bad deals on the stock market, or fell victim to gambling or other addictions.”

“I lost every friend I ever had.”

“That’s what happened to people as they grew older,” she countered.  “They outlived many of their friends.”

“My whole family died.”

“You need to find a new family.”  The woman motions to the other sign-carriers marching behind her.  “That’s what I did.”

Don’t engage.  Don’t engage.

Everything she said enrages you.  And the signs, the other clueless signs, simply add to your fury:  “A smile costs nothing,”   “Stay cheerful,”   “Turn that frown — ”

You can’t read anymore.  A surge of obscenities rises in your throat, spews forth.  Words you’d never see on a handwritten sign.  Words you didn’t realize you knew…

The woman is really flinching now, with each awful syllable.  The line of friends behind her have stopped marching, and they turn their attention to you.

They aren’t smiling anymore.

The group of protesters forms a circle around you, then begins closing in.  You keep cursing, to prove your point:  sometimes, unpleasant things cannot be ignored.

They pelt you with their signs, beat at you with bare fists.

As you begin to lose consciousness, you think:  At least I won…