July 19, 2009

Woe are us?

The other day at work, we had what’s called a ‘close encounter’, which is an opportunity for folks to meet in small groups with one of our senior executives, get the view from the top, and ask or say pretty much anything we want. One of the things that made this one interesting was a comment made by one of my co-workers who had spent much of his life living in other places, both in New York and around the country. He didn’t have a solution, or really a question – just an observation - that of all the places he’s lived, Syracuse has the most downer attitude he’s ever seen. It’s as if we think we have nothing going for us – and so, sadly, we act accordingly.

Our group had some conversation on this topic; whether we thought it was true (we did); whether it was just our area, or if it included the other areas spanned by our parent organization (just our area); and whether we had any ideas about why. The local media was mentioned as a possible focal point; another was our blue-collar history, now facing tough times as we lose manufacturing jobs; and of course the weather – we are, after all, the perpetual winner of the Golden Snowball and have just come off our rainiest June in decades. The discussion then turned to how we deal with that kind of attitude at work, and the challenge from the executive to do what we could to combat it, individually, with our staff and with our peers.

Since we had that conversation on Wednesday, I’ve given it more than a passing thought. Was I personally guilty as charged? Did I perpetuate the negative even in the face of the many positives around us? I laugh quite a bit, find humor in things that others may miss; but even so, I decided that I’d try and keep myself honest on this at work, focus on the positive, and try and keep my innate sarcasm and cynicism at bay. I also decided I’d see what the world looked like if I were to keep a positive attitude for the entire weekend.

Can I tell you, I didn’t encounter a single miserable person the whole weekend? My Sweet Baboo and I spent hours Saturday at the Syracuse Nationals where we saw maybe half of the almost 7000 cars that made the trip. Not a single person was grumpy there – probably because it’s hard to be grumpy looking at cars of every old make and model, every color under the sun (and some that were made up, I’m sure), and every style of pin-striping and ghost flames you can imagine. Besides, many of the cars look like they're looking back at you - which makes it harder to keep from grinning at them.

On the way home, we stopped off at a local church festival to pick up some Middle Eastern food and sweets. There, a few teenagers were helping explain what the food items were, getting orders ready, being very patient with both young and old, with not a groan or mutter to be heard. We went grocery shopping today, and not a single person I interacted with seemed unhappy. We also hit Lowe’s for mulch and a couple other things, and again, not a disparaging word was heard, no frowns to be found. We even went to a dollar store for some shiny Mylar to scare deer out of the garden, and even there, everyone seemed to be in pretty good spirits. At the dollar store!

This seemed out of the ordinary – we never go through this type of weekend, with lots of public contact, without encountering at least one person who is abjectly miserable. Then I got to thinking, maybe people weren’t abjectly miserable because I was on my best behavior. If I’m being grumpy, that likely rubs off on others. If they’re being grumpy, that will inevitably shade my interaction with them. All the sudden, it seemed like there was something to this whole idea of positive thinking. Maybe I don’t need to carry a Taser when I go to the grocery store, which My Sweet Baboo’s sister BeeJuhTay suggested might make the trip go a little better. Maybe I only need to remember to bring my smile. Hmm…I hope it'll fit in my purse.

Here are some pictures from the car show. Viewers beware – you may find yourself smiling as you look at these!

1 comment:

  1. My friend, you have just discovered thebeauty of the Law of Attraction. Keep trying this little "experiment" of yours and enjoy the results! P.S. Love the pictures. I miss going to car shows with John.