Part of my job requires me to work front of house at a theater before musical performances. While this means I am qualified to answer questions about the programming, artists, and performers, I’m usually relegated to a more important task: glorified guide to the bathroom.
For the most part, I don’t mind this part of my position. After all, people are at the theater to have a good time, so it’s usually a jovial atmosphere. And I like to be nice, talk to people, and have fun. Basically, I enjoy being happy.
And sometimes people really, really don’t like this.
Last night, I had a couple approach me while I was standing at the info table. The wife asked if she could make a suggestion for future programming, and while the artistic admins might not seriously consider the request, I always pass them along. It’s good to know what our patrons want, and as a patron, I think it’s nice to be heard.
My standard response, which includes a smile, is: “I would be happy to pass that along to our artistic department.”
The wife thanked me profusely for taking the time to listen to her, and I played it down by saying, “I’m happy to make you happy. That’s why [this particular cultural organization] exists.”
That’s when the husband started questioning how any one person could possibly be so happy about anything. At first I thought he was teasing, but then it became a little more sinister.
I’m sure I was staring at him with my fake plastered front-of-house smile, but I hope there was a hint of “Are you fucking kidding me?” in my eyes, because I realized as his wife drug him off (yes, she pulled him away by the arm) that he was mocking me.
Mocking my upbeat attitude.
Here’s the deal.
I’ve lived long enough to learn that a smile and a pleasant attitude can go a lot further than a sour-puss sarcastic wanker (although, to be fair, those wankers sometimes get a better deal because we just want them to shut up).
I can’t tell you how many countless times I’ve smiled at someone, maybe even asked how they are doing, and seen that person’s demeanor change instantly.
I even made a customs official laugh, and trust me on this one, that’s not an easy thing to do.
We were coming through LaGuardia from South Africa. My now husband, then boyfriend, and I got up to the desk, and the officer took our passports without looking at us and asked, “Was your travel for business or pleasure?”
I really had to think about that one. Legitimately.
Finally I looked at him, smiled, and sheepishly said, “Honestly, it was for a family wedding.”
His posture changed immediately, and he started laughing. He looked up at me and said, “I completely understand, but for the sake of the government, I’m going to say ‘pleasure.’”
I shrugged and made a face, which only made him laugh harder.
Here’s the second part of the deal.
I’ve had two experiences in my life that were kind of life threatening. I had a pulmonary embolism in 2011 and an ectopic pregnancy that required surgery just last year. I don’t like to dwell on those events, have them define who I am, but in a sense, those events made me change my outlook on life.
I could go through life, searching for only the bad things, bringing people down, reveling in that negative first reaction humans seem to have to everything, or I could smile, look someone in the eye, and see where the goodness will take us.