A Smidge Better Than Okay

I went to the hair salon this morning, to update my stylist on life to date and to eliminate the emerging skunk stripe from my hair. Only $92 and 2 hours later, I headed to the counter to check out. I didn’t recognize the woman behind the desk. “How are you?” I said.

She sighed. “I’m oohhkaaaayyy.”

I looked at her, waiting to see if she was going to elaborate. She shrugged her shoulders. Clearly, she was not pleased to be at work.

“Just okay?” I asked.

“Well, better to be here than at home. I can’t do anything anyway because it’s raining,” she said.

Ahhh. An Eyeore. It’s never a good day if you’re Eyeore.

That poor donkey. Not only was he always losing his tail, but also he forever wandered around muttering how life was so hard and bad things always happened to him.

I paid my bill and left the salon. But I was thinking, “Better here than at a funeral! Better here than Mass General! Better here than six feet under!”

I am continually amazed at how many people will respond with indifference and apathy when asked how they are doing. It’s one thing if you hit a low patch because of serious challenges or strife. But most people who go about life with a ho-hum attitude are just serial complainers. I can’t take them!

(Is that complaining?)

Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, “Any day you wake up, stretch your arms out, and don’t feel the sides of a coffin is a pretty good day!” And I agree. There are a lot of people lumbering around the western world today, heads hanging, mumbling, “We’re oookkkkkaaaaayyyy.” Sure, times are tough. Life is hard. Sometimes, life even stinks. But there are still a lot of awe-inspiring parts to being human, and for every valley in our lives, there’s often a peak to look forward to.

When was the last time you asked someone how they were, and they said, “Fabulous!” Or “Never better!”?

When people do respond in a positive way to that simple, “how are you” question, we tend to look at them funny and wonder what’s wrong with them. In our culture it’s much more expected to say “Fine,” “It’s Monday,” or “I’d be better if….”

Have you ever come across someone who is truly delighted to be alive? Someone who gets out of bed on the sunny side and stays in that space all day? And maybe even for more than one day in a row?

On a trip to Orlando recently, I met someone just like that. His name was David Shekner, and he drove an airport shuttle back and forth to MCO all hours of the day. Imagine his job—pick-ups and drop-offs at 20 different hotels within a 30-mile radius, passing through the same tolls, battling the same traffic, all for $1 or $2 tips from each passenger. Imagine: “All of you going Continental or Delta, this is your stop…Southwest is next…” an excruciating seven or eight times a day.

David, however, seemed to enjoy this job. The day I met him, it was pitch black out, before 6:00 am, and he was raring to go. He had more energy than a two-year-old in a highchair full of Cheerios. He greeted us all heartily, wished us a Happy Mother’s Day (if applicable, he said), and asked us if we were in Florida for fun or work.

We were all half asleep, and mumbled our replies. He responded, “Anyone wanna talk? Anyone? Anyone? No? Okay!” We laughed.

David was full of advice throughout the ride. “You know,” he said, “the airport food courts are open, so make sure you grab a bite to eat before your flight. Just make sure you don’t spoil your meal on the plane.”

Even with his cheerful comments, we were still a bit quiet. He kept trying, though. As we neared the airport, he said, “Those of you here on business, you have a few more minutes to network, if anyone wants to say anything…”

We didn’t. Everyone knows you don’t talk on airport shuttles. A good shuttle passenger knows you’re supposed to be tired, a bit sullen, and thinking of your destination that’s a big secret to everyone else in the van. You might mutter a “have a nice day,” as you head out the door. That’s about it.

We stopped at the first airline, and one man dressed in a suit got off. As David climbed back into the van and buckled his seat belt, he looked back at us and said, “Well, he was in a rush, wasn’t he? Now that he’s gone, we can talk about him!”

The odd quietness in the van had lifted. We started chatting a bit here and there and asking David a few questions about himself. But soon it was time for the rest of us to get off.

As we arrived at the last stop, he said, “Please make sure you gather your belongings. If I don’t find them right away because it’s early and still dark, no worries….” He paused.

“…you’ll be able to find them on eBay tonight.”

We all laughed. 

“Hey, this is America!” he added, with a huge smile, slamming the van doors.

Darn right.