A Bronx cheer for the cheerful

Kevin Cowherd

April 13, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

Tell me, is there anything more irritating than people who are relentlessly cheerful in the morning?

I'm talking about those people who begin each day with a broad smile and a gooey Richard Simmons-like perkiness no matter how ungodly the hour.

I'm talking about those people who exhibit boundless energy and unfailing good humor without having to down 27 cups of strong coffee.

God, I hate those people.

I hate the holier-than-thou tone behind their good spirits. I hate the way they flaunt their cheerfulness at a time when others can barely put one foot in front of the other.

(Remember chirpy Florence Henderson in that Wesson oil commercial a few years ago?

(Remember her raking a pinky through the Wesson and licking it and flashing a big, goofy smile at the camera, like it was the greatest thing she'd ever tasted? And remember her gushing on and on about "Wesson-ality," to the point where you wanted to shake her and scream: "Florence! For God's sake, it's cooking oil!"

(That's the kind of insufferable cheerfulness we're talking about here -- a cheerfulness entirely inappropriate for the occasion.)

Frankly, it has always been my position that cheerfulness in and of itself should not be permitted before a certain hour (say, 11 a.m.), and then only in measured doses.

Anything more will grate on the nerves of those around the cheerful person, and people will begin to regard him or her as a kook or a closet amphetamine freak.

Some years ago, I worked with a reporter who would bound into the office early each morning with a look of pure joy on her face.

As soon as she reached her desk, she would sing out: "Isn't it a great, great day?!"

This is what the woman said, without fail, every day.

Every single day.

Every single day for six long months.

Think about that for a moment.

I don't know if I can describe how annoying this phrase became, except to say that a number of reporters would begin howling and bashing their heads against the filing cabinets as soon as they heard it.

Putting aside, for the moment, the bizarre neo-Pavlovian response of her colleagues, the woman was just too damn cheerful for her own good.

It was like sitting across from Mary Poppins, minus the bumbershoot. After a while, you wanted to strangle her.

One morning, as she was bustling about the office in her usual Little Miss Sunshine mode, I took her aside.

"Tell me," I said, lowering my voice to a whisper, "what kind of drugs are you on? C'mon, you can trust me."

For a moment, she seemed genuinely puzzled.

"What is it, Dexedrine?" I continued. "Two hundred milligrams? Is that why you bounce around here like a Labrador retriever who's been cooped up for days?"

"I . . . I don't take any . . ."

"Or is it one of the Beta-blockers, like Inderol?" I continued. "Or a tricyclic anti-depressant that . . . "

"Look," she said sharply, "it's not drugs. I meditate every morning."

"Let me see if I've got this straight," I said. "You buzz around here every morning like Maria Von Trapp on three bottles of Vivarin -- and all that comes from meditation?"

"Yes," she said. "Meditation has enriched my life tremendously."

The woman actually talked like that. That was another reason people had vivid dreams of creeping up behind her with a length of garroting wire.

Anyway, the bottom line on this meditating business was that she spent 45 minutes each morning practicing an offshoot of TM -- transcendental meditation.

This, she said, allowed her "inner reservoir" to overflow with tremendous energy each morning. (Personally, I felt she could have banged back four or five cups of Folgers and saved herself a lot of time.)

Nevertheless, when informed that her perkiness had become extremely annoying, she promised not to be so overtly cheerful, and she was true to her word. In fact, pretty soon she was as sour and grumpy as the rest of us in the morning. Morale in the newsroom improved markedly.

Now, what exactly am I trying to say here?

Am I saying the morning hours should be a time only for quiet contemplation and brooding?

Am I saying there is never a need for the kind of zany, rake-a-pinky-through-the-Wesson bubbliness pioneered by Florence Henderson?

Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying.

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