THE HAPPY EXPERIMENT
February sucks. It takes forever even though it’s short, and everyone scowls, myself included, I am an Olympic-level scowler, I would not lie about this, and apparently scowling gives you wrinkles and causes cancer so now we’re all gonna die. Just wanted to pass that along in case you were doing something stupid like having a good day.
The scowls represent what we are all thinking: I hate you as much as you hate me and it would be wonderful if you’d go screw yourself immediately; oh, and don’t forget—come to my play/reading/gig/art opening/fund raiser this weekend. Thanks!
Then I was struck by a Really Big Idea, which came to me in the form of a clump of snow that fell from the 3,456th floor of a building and landed on my foot and no, that didn’t hurt, not at all, and you’ll be happy to note my ballet career is still strong and vibrant. (Come to my recital this weekend! Thanks!)
The Really Big Idea was: The Happy Experiment. One of many things I loved about being in New Orleans last month was that people looked you in the face and smiled. This maybe had something to do with the fact that I was passing out 100-dollar bills everywhere I went. Hence, I figured if I walked around Chicago smiling, I would receive smiles and therefore rescue February from Suck Assery (SA).
I decided to implement the Happy Experiment on a Monday morning because I am brilliant and I have a death wish.
I was walking toward him and as there were no other living entities around, Subject #1 became Subject #1. I smiled. He did not. I leaned my head to the side and stared my Bionic Man stare at him. He made eye contact. I smiled. He did not. Clearly, he was an alien. Which is great. We don’t judge here. But rush-hour-connection-building via smiles may be an experiment best left to a pool of humans. (Which, by the way, is the name of my alt-country band, Pool of Humans, and we’re playing this Sunday at the Congress, $5, so come on out and show some support! Thanks!)
Subject #2 was actually humanity in aggregate. (My band, Humanity in Aggregate, will be ripping the walls off Metro this Friday, so come out and show some support! Thanks!) As I was walking down the street, skipping, as I’m wont to do, along came a mass of humans from the other direction. Surely, said I to me, this is the data set I’ve been waiting for. And don’t call me Surely. That joke doesn’t really work when written. And then all of humanity—by which I mean the mass of humans walking toward me—coalesced into one giant head, and wow, was that a mess because as it turns out, Humanity can’t figure out whether to laugh or cry, but with all those humans coagulated together, you can bet there was much discussion about it (“We should cry, the world is miserable!” “We should laugh, the world is miserable!” “Don’t blame me, I voted for Mondale!” “If you brushed your teeth, then you could get rid of that smell!” “I hate American Idol.”), which I chose to walk away from because I am conducting the Happy Experiment and I really don’t have time to listen to others.
I ran into Subject #3 as I crossed Wacker. This is the part of my morning commute when I sincerely wonder how bad it would be if the air was toxic. Not too bad, is usually my conclusion. Because there is construction along this section of my walk, I am forced to get in line behind other walkers and pick my way through a very narrow path, usually at a rate that is so slow, it actually turns time backwards, which is good because then I have time to think, but bad because then I have time to think.
I was walking and looking down, because when you’re enacting the Happy Experiment and you want to smile at other humans, looking down at the snow-covered ground is the best way to accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, I missed the fact that the line of humans I was following had stopped, and so I crashed into Subject #3, who was a tall, gangly woman holding many bags. More unfortunately, I didn’t realize I had run into Subject #3 because of the aforementioned Really Big Thoughts I was thinking (hamburgers).
“Excuse you,” said Subject #3. She readjusted a bag on her right shoulder. One of the bags on her left shoulder slipped.
“What?” I said, because I am very erudite.
“I said, ‘Excuse you.’”
“Oh. Well, thank you, but I didn’t sneeze. It might’ve been—”
“YOU JUST RAN INTO ME.”
I looked around. I had to admit, I was standing exceptionally close to her, in a spot where I didn’t actually need to be standing exceptionally close to her. In addition, it appeared that I couldn’t account for my thoughts for the preceding 5 minutes, so I couldn’t argue the obvious, which was that I was darning my socks so I could give them away to the poor orphans that I was at that moment going to visit and read stories to. So instead I smiled. She tapped her foot. The light was red and I believed at the time the light was going to stay red indefinitely. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to run into you,” I said, and then I smiled. Again. She did not return my smile.
“I like your bag,” I said, thinking I’d be able to successfully prove that the Happy Experiment was brilliant and then I’d win the Nobel Prize for Human Development and Excellent Shoe Collections and that would propel me to international stardom, which I would use to promote break dancing education in schools, because I cannot break dance or pop and lock and this is something I’ve been ashamed of since high school. “I don’t care,” the lady said. And then she crossed the street because the light was green and, apparently, not staying red indefinitely.
I am sorry to report that I haven’t saved February from Suck Assery (SA). I believe my reasoning is sound, but humankind is not. I will have to re-evaluate my methods, which I will do in New Orleans while I’m on tour with my funk punk band, February Is For Losers. (We’ll be playing on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville this Saturday, so come on out and show some support! Thanks!)