Have you noticed that there’s something in Valentine’s Day that brings out the worst in people?
People who don’t have a sweetheart complain that nobody brings them candy or flowers. People who DO have sweethearts complain because they a.) didn’t bring the RIGHT KIND of candy or flowers, or b.) they actually listened when people said “Oh, I don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day this year.”
The Research Department longs to ask the first group for a list of the lonely people they gave candy or flowers to, and to ask the second group for a copy of the contract that guarantees them center-of-someone’s-universe status. But since the R.D. wants to go on living with all of its teeth and major limbs attached, it will settle for finding out if there are any holidays dedicated to curmudgeons.
As it turns out, and I am sort-of not making this up, Feb. 16, today, is “Do A Grouch a Favor Day.” I am sort-of-not-making-this-up because while the day itself is pretty well documented, nobody knows where it came from, whose idea it was, or what makes it official. It just sort of crept into the holiday rotation like a stray cat, and hangs around there because, well, it’s so appropriate.
The point, as far as the R.D. was able to determine it from several web sites, is that grouchy people just need a little love, and this is best provided by doing them a favor. The Research Department is at a bit of a loss to know what sort of favor to do, insofar as most grouchy people it knows are never happier than when they are throwing a tantrum, pitching a hissy fit, or launching a diatribe. Maybe all that athletic activity makes them sore, and they need a massage?
Shrugging its shoulders and armed with an indefatigable intention to Do Good, the Research Department has decided that the terminally grouchy should be cheered up today, no matter what they want. With that in mind, consider following suggestions so that you, too, can identify a grouch and do something that will rob him or her of what little satisfaction life affords.
First, we must identify the true curmudgeon, as opposed to the person who is merely in a bad mood. True curmudgeons have frown lines on their foreheads, even if they’re five years old. They sound like Eeyore. Their beds do not have right sides, and the silver lining of their dark clouds has tarnished. The hard-core grouch can watch a kitten playing with a sock and complain because someone will have to wash the sock later.
Since the curmudgeon does not recognize his or her need for cheering-up, you may first want to bring the subject up in a delicate way. Try saying something like “Was that a nice lemon you had for breakfast?” If that doesn’t soften their expression, beam at them and say, in a bright and cheerful voice, “Smile! Today is the first day of the rest of your life!”
At this point, the curmudgeon may try to escape. Do your best to cut this off by trotting alongside and asking, in your most charming voice, “Would you like to see a picture of my (dog/cat, child/grandchild, guinea pig/hamster, sock drawer)?”
Pull out the photos before the grouch can respond, and point out how smart the child, pet, or laundry is to have worked out how to open the fridge like that. Flip through a dozen or so pictures, with a running commentary about how you met the people involved, how great they are, and how much your current audience reminds you of the creepy guy scowling in the back corner.
At this point, the true curmudgeon may smite you with some handy object, but don’t let that stop you. You’ve just been softening up this crusty person, and now you can lean forward and stare meaningfully into his or her eyes. In your deepest, most sincere voice, you ask “What can I do for you today?”
This will cause anyone with a pulse to draw back in alarm, which will then allow you to say, in a hurt tone, “Honestly, I just want to make you smile.”
The curmudgeon, who is not stupid and who by now thinks you’re nuttier than a bag of trail mix, will flash you a brief little grin and streak off toward his or her vehicle/office/restroom, leaving you glowing in the awareness of a good deed well done.
In fact, you can repeat this all day, every day, and it will, inexorably and much more quickly than you think, rid your world of grouches.