Her name was Jill. I know this because that’s what it said on the name tag she wore as she checked my groceries at the supermarket. She was bubbly. Perky. Friendly. Upbeat.
Clearly she had to be brought down.
“Have a good one!” she said cheerfully as she handed me my change.
“A good day!”
“I glanced outside the front door.
“It’s night,” I said.
Her smile didn’t dim one watt.
“Then have a good night!”
I shook my head sadly.
“Too late,” I said. “It’s already been a long, tough night. And it was a long, tough day.”
She – shudder! – giggled. “Then have a good sleep! And a great day tomorrow!”
She was tough. Relentless. I had to give her that. But I was determined to outlast her.
“Tomorrow is my dog’s funeral,” I lied. “He was run over by a steamroller. We’re burying him in my backyard. And my neighbor’s. And his neighbor’s.”
She could see where I was going. “Then I hope you have a wonderful funeral,” she said, still smiling.
About this time some of the other people in line at the checkout stand joined the attack.
“I wish I had a funeral to go to tomorrow,” the guy behind me said. “That would give me an excuse to skip my income tax audit.”
“But isn’t it great that the IRS thinks you’re worth auditing?” she responded.
“The IRS wouldn’t audit me,” a woman behind him said. “I don’t have any money at all. In fact, the check I’m going to write to pay for these groceries will probably bounce.”
“But at least you’ll have food tonight!” Jill said. “And the store can’t repossess food!”
“Could they repossess my husband?” another woman asked. “He ran off with my mother. They took the kids, the station wagon and the cat. And I really miss that cat.”
Jill hesitated a moment. I might have been wrong, but I thought I detected the slight crease of a frown furrowing her brow. But just as quickly as it appeared, she turned it upside down and the engaging smile was back in place.
“Just think of the peace and quiet around the house,” she said, “and how much you’ll save on cat food!”
She was irrepressible. The small group that had gathered around her check stand broke into smiles, laughter and applause.
“All right,” I said, “I surrender! You’re the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. But you’ve got to tell me how you do it. I mean, life can be pretty rough. How do you stay so ‘up’?”
“By refusing to let myself get down,” she said. “It’s like that law of physics, you know? ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ Only my law of happiness is even simpler: ‘For every sad there is a glad.’ I just look for it. And usually I find it.”
Yeah, I know. Simplistic. Naïve. Pollyanna-ish. But it seems to work for Jill.
“Hey,” she said as I turned to leave the store, “don’t forget.”
“Forget what?” I asked, checking for my shopping bag, my debit card and my car keys.
“You know,” Jill said, smiling that perky, friendly, upbeat smile. “Have a good one!”