Illustration ©Kate Niblick

 

Continued from…


"GO TO HOME DEPOT AND JUST LOOK AROUND"

I wasn't sure why I had to go to Home Depot in particular–wouldn't Lowe's suffice?–but mine was not to question why. Mine was to follow orders and be happy.

Upon entering the do-it-yourself mega-store, I was immediately transfixed by a video display describing anti-flea products by Enforcer of Cartersville, Ga. Soon, I was learning all about the fascinating life-cycle of the flea: larvae, pupae, adult fleas, a quick stop on your pet, and then eggs.

Although this was quite interesting, it didn't improve my outlook on life. In fact, it made me itchy. So I moved on, threading my way through a swarm of apron-wearing guys who all looked like Bob Vila, and attempting to decipher the mysteriously important messages squawking over the P.A. system: "Lumber mfrgl ignrark I need a 229 on the 324 mrklbff."

Cleverly recalling another rule of thumb from On Joy–"Every so often, go where you can hear a wooden screen door slam shut"–I went to the screen door section. Unfortunately, there was no sample of the wooden ones already hung, so I just kind of knocked them together in the bin. This did not make me happy. Neither did the ceiling fan section, the rugs aisle, the doorknobs center, the window frame collection, or the barbecue display, either. Maybe if I owned a house I'd feel better. Then again, it'd probably make me think about all the work my house needs but I can't afford to do.


"WATCH THE MOVIE GRAND CANYON"

In this film, a bunch of yuppie baby boomers in Los Angeles become distraught at urban decay–i.e., crime. They sit around and bemoan the lot of society, and question the direction of their lives. I found all this to be pretty dull and predictable–depressing, even–but then Steve Martin got shot in the knee cap. I felt somewhat perked up, if not exactly happy.


"TEST DRIVE A FAST, RED SPORTS CAR"

I decided that if I was going be happy, I might as well be very happy. Therefore, I combined the above directive with one a few pages later: "Once in your life, own a convertible." I proceeded immediately to the Mercedes Benz dealer.

"Howdy," I said as I shook the salesman's hand. "I would like to test drive a 600SL–the one with a V12 engine? And it has to be red. Thanks!"

His smile crystallized into a frozen grin, the part in his hair fracturing to the very foundations of his Brylcream.

"The 600SL is a splendid car," he said, teeth unmoving. "Unfortunately, we don't have a red one. Perhaps another car will do–we have several pre-owned selections that are also very nice."

"Oh no–I'm afraid it's got to be a sports car, it's got to be a red one, and it's got to be fast," I insisted. "Nothing else will do. I want to be happy."

"I see. And what type of remuneration will you be making your purchase with, sir?"

"Excuse me?

"How are paying for it?"

"Uh … financing, thank you."

"In that case, why don't we have you fill out a credit application first? It's just a formality before we proceed to test-drive a $120,000 automobile. I'm sure you understand."

"Fine."

After my credit report came back over the computer, American Express was immediately notified of my whereabouts. And Mastercard. And that second Visa Card I had forgotten about a few years ago. After the court settlement, my wages are now being garnisheed through 2007, and I still didn't get to test-drive the car. This did not make me happy.


"WAVE AT CHILDREN ON SCHOOL BUSES"

One early morning at an elementary school bus stop, I gaily waved at the visible faces of our future leaders and innovators, children whose dreams and innocence were yet unscathed by disappointment or grim reality.

I received two "fuck you's," 12 fully flipped birds, and one lugie on my shirt. This did not make me happy. As a result, I decided to skip "Visit your old high school and introduce yourself to the principal. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of classes." Meeting our future leaders in person probably would not make me happy either, I concluded. Plus, the principal might have me arrested.


"AT THE MOVIES, BUY JUNIOR MINTS AND SPRINKLE THEM ON YOUR POPCORN"

Combine one movie-sized box of Junior Mints with one large box of popcorn with butter, and what do you get? A surefire treat that not only brings a smile to your face, but approximately 110 grams of fat coursing directly to your heart. This did not make my major arteries happy.


"PRAY FOR AN ENEMY"

At first, I took this to mean that you should pray to get an enemy, but wasn't quite sure how this would bring you joy. (Unless, of course, you had him at your mercy, and … but I digress.) So now I assume it means to think really good thoughts about an enemy you already have. But I didn't have one at the ready (who was my ultimate enemy?) so I sat down and made a list:

A. People who drive Cadillac SUVs.

B. The guy who invented "Nutty Buddies."

C. All MTV veejays.

Therefore, I prayed for all Cadillac SUV owners to take driver safety courses on "How to Share the Road," for the Nutty Buddy inventor to devise one that's fat-free, and for all MTV veejays to return to their original, more challenging field of employment–fast food sales.

I must admit, I did feel a little better.


"DON'T POSTPONE JOY"

Gosh, why didn't I do this in the first place? If that's all it takes to be happy, why, I could be joyful every single day!

Seriously, however, that's what Life's Little Treasure Books all boil down to: don't overlook the simple pleasures in life. And this is a philosophy I can certainly agree with.

But through the course of my research, I was nearly trampled, arrested, bored to death, and killed by clumps of fat. And any resulting increase in joyfulness was not really worth the misery. Therefore, I say to you, find your own homilies of joy, and save a few bucks in the process. They'll serve you much better.

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