2017.06.07 Guest Column: Jim Whitehouse


I seem to be grumpier than normal right now. This is the third time I’ve put my hands on my keyboard to write this column. The first two times, all I did was complain about rude people with barking dogs, howling automobile sound systems, loud mufflers and on and on. I erased all of that, knowing that nobody wants to hear my pet peeves. 

Not too many months ago, I was talking with my old friend Wash, who told me that her grandmother had a simple philosophy expressed in three words. “Don’t Be Grumpy.” 

I think Wash’s grandmother’s philosophy is terrific. Just don’t be grumpy. 

Putting that notion into constant practice is sometimes difficult. Every time I grump about something, I get angry with myself for violating the simple, sweet rule. That makes me grumpier. 

My beloved wife Marsha, who is cursed by having to spend more time in my company than any other person, is never grumpy, and she is very forgiving of my occasional grumpiness. Bless her sunny heart. She says it’s all in having a positive attitude. 

I think she’s right.

Years ago, I often did business with a farmer who had simply given up on being cheerful. 

“Hi, Gary!” I’d say when I saw him. “How ya doing?” 

“Miserable,” he’d say. 

Another friend, Ed, upon being greeted with a “How ya doing?” would always say, “Fantastic! If I was any better, it’d take two of me to handle all the fun!” 

Surely, Gary was pretty much guaranteeing unhappiness for himself and those he greeted, while Ed was doing just the opposite. 

I’ve adopted a truncated version of Ed’s greeting, and even if I’m not particularly cheerful at the time, just PRETENDING to be happy lifts me up and before I know it, I AM happy. I like being happy. 

Given the success of this simple practice, I want to extend it to other things. 

“Hey, Jim, are you rich?” someone might ask.

“FILTHY RICH! I’ve got so much money I don’t know what to do with it,” I’ll say, even though it isn’t true. 

If pretending to be happy makes me happy, then pretending to be rich might work too. 

“Hey, Jim! Can you dunk a basketball?” someone might ask. 

“Backwards, left-handed with my eyes closed,” I’ll shout. 

I know this will work because I just tried it, and my vertical jump distance went from 2 mm to 2.5 mm. A few weeks of this mantra and I’ll be able to jump over a cigarette butt on the sidewalk. 

Come to think of it, I can apply this method to anything. 

“How old are you?” someone might ask. 

“TWENTY!” I’ll shout with glee and than sit back and watch the clock and calendar run backwards. 

“Jumbo—er, I mean, Jimbo—how much do you weigh?” someone will ask. 

“150 pounds, soaking wet!” I’ll exalt, and then head for the mall to buy a new and smaller wardrobe. 

“Hey Jim, you do know you’re dreaming don’t you?” 

“Yeah, but it was fun while it lasted.”