Jewish World Review June 10, 2003 / 10 Sivan, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

In defense of grumpiness | As if life were not stressful enough already what with ongoing troubles in the Middle East, a shaky economy and the very real possibility that Martha Stewart will soon be macraméing shiv holsters at a federal penitentiary, a Venice woman has organized the Great American Grump Out.

Janice Hathy, a woman who gives no thought to her personal safety by walking around in public wearing smiley-face earrings, believes that people are too grumpy and would feel better if they smiled more.

"Stress is the No. 1 health problem in America," Hathy told Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter David Hackett. "The simple act of smiling changes the blood flow in your face and stimulates your blood chemistry so that you feel better."

To her dismay, Hathy discovered recently that many people prefer the blood flow in their faces just the way it is and don't like to fool with their blood chemistry unless it happens to be Happy Hour.

During her tour of Venice last month promoting the Great American Grump Out, Hathy encountered a grumpy postal worker (is that a redundancy?) who told her to go away and a publicity-shy mayor (is that an oxymoron?) who described her campaign as "frivolous" and refused to meet with her.

Pretty much everyone has told Hathy to go be cheerful somewhere else except the media, that great champion of irritating causes. Besides the ink the Herald-Tribune has given her, Hathy has been written up by more than 40 news organizations, including the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times. (According to the Times story filed by reporter Jayson Blair: "A warm Santa Ana wind tousled Hathy's long blond or possibly auburn hair and the bleat of the rare three-pronged Malaysian penguin could be heard echoing across the craggy, snow-capped mountains that separate Venice from the Gulf of Mexico or possibly the Indian Ocean. The activist sat on a hand-made rocker given to her by her African-American or possibly Canadian grandmother and gazed out over the tobacco fields that stretched all the way to either the Sarasota County line or Montana and whispered to no one in particular, certainly not me, 'As G-d is my witness, I will endure grumpiness no more!' ")

People have good reason to be suspicious of people who smile too much. Too often the person who is smiling wants you to sign up for a new long-distance plan or enlist in a religious cult that is preparing for the inevitable takeover of Earth by space aliens who resemble Dick Cheney.

Most of the people you see smiling are actors on TV who are paid to do it. Sometimes the person who takes your order at a fast-food restaurant will smile, but that generally is the result of the fumes.

I'm sure Hathy is trying to make the world a happier place by urging people to smile more, but she may only be succeeding in making people feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. This does not mean that Hathy should abandon her crusade because I think with some minor tweaking it could still work.

What should she do? Two words: Jell-O shots.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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