Keeping my smile is harder each year

Monday, December 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:59 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

I gave up on making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Since then, all I’ve resolved is to maintain the positive attributes of my status quo (whatever they happen to be at the time). The one promise I’ve made to myself since I attained adulthood is to keep my sense of humor. And I’ve found that that gets harder and harder to do each time the calendar runs out of days.

This year is no exception. In fact, it’s an even greater challenge to keep on smiling. That’s because the list of things that threaten my resolve has grown even longer due to the most disheartening presidential campaign I’ve ever known.

In any case, a brief encounter with any of these situations is enough to send my spirits spilling down the tube:

  • The prospects of airline travel. For years, I have been rebelling against the way airlines discriminate against their paying customers. It began with smokers and the airlines’ refusal to have smoking areas even though smokers pay the same amount for their tickets as nonsmokers. I’ve always maintained that once discrimination is allowed to prevail for whatever reason, it doesn’t end with one group. At the present time, it has extended to people who are overweight. Since many Americans are overweight, one would think that American airline companies would install larger, more comfortable seats. But what did they do? Cram in more seats thereby reducing seat size and making them closer together and even more uncomfortable. Charging overweight people higher rates just adds injury to insult. Will tall people be the next target group since they usually have longer legs? If the person in front of you decides to let his seat back, you have to be a lot more laid back than I am to be able to enjoy a good belly laugh with a stranger’s head resting in your lap.
  • Cell-phone users who hold intimate conversations in public. I realize that calling attention to one’s self is a good ploy to get noticed by someone holding a television camera. And really, I don’t have a problem with anyone’s need to have her 15 minutes of fame. But I resent paying top dollar for a choice meal in a fine restaurant when I’m forced to listen to all of the boring details of somebody’s romantic interlude the night before. Or worse still the gory tale of somebody’s fight with their significant other, or their mother, sibling, children, boss, best friend or worst enemy. I don’t want to hear 15 ways to cook Spam, anyone’s daughter’s bra size or what the neighbor’s dog left in a pile on the bed pillow. It’s hard to smile when your teeth are clenched and you’re to the point of beating your fists on the table.
  • Retail salespeople from hell. The worst offenders are employees of the superstores where you can travel to Tokyo faster than you get to the end of the aisle of faucets, computer software or dishwashing liquid. No matter which section you are in, the salesperson for that section is either out sick, on a coffee break or is a new employee who has never heard of whatever you’re looking for. If you by some miracle get what you came for, your next challenge is to find a check-out line that isn’t a mile long, isn’t standing still for a price check or doesn’t have a cash register that’s out of paper.
  • Parents who neglect their kids. Wherever I find them (and that’s everywhere), I make it my business to go someplace else. This is so sad that I sometimes worry I’ll never laugh again.
  • People in dysfunctional relationships. I’m not one of those people who are always telling other folks to get over it and get on with the rest of their lives. Maybe they don’t want to get over it, and that’s OK with me. They can even tell me about it, ONCE. My bottom line is that probably every third person you meet has a similar story, so there are hardly any unique situations. Therapists make a living listening to these stories. They can be found in the yellow pages of the telephone book. When people are able to look back on these relationships and laugh, then they can tell me about it and we can laugh together.

Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t send me a funny story. By the end of the day I can use all the laughs I can get. I’m sure I’ll never be able to avoid encountering any of the situations on my list. So, the only solution to my problem is the same one that’s been around forever — learn to grin and bear it.

The old adage remains true. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy New Year!

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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