I woke up yesterday full of determination. It was the first International Day of Happiness and I was going to make sure I was going to get my share of joy, bliss and elation. Having struggled with the annual winter gloom that saps my spirit and awakes an urge to burrow under the covers for 48 hours at a time, I was overjoyed to learn that that wonderful institution that guards the wellbeing of us all had found a way to celebrate happiness for one day a year. Finally, I thought, it is high time something smart came out of the UN.
For years they have had all our best interests at heart of course, and there are towers of reports generated around the clock to prove they do. There is not much this bastion of international cooperation cannot tell you about hunger, poverty and epidemics, in triplicate and signed off on by highly intelligent people who usually earn more than the national GDP of the region they are reporting on. Just in case anyone feels that decisions need to be made to alleviate suffering, the information is there. Piles of it.
Having established that the pursuit of happiness is a common human goal, those international wise men and women decided it was time to allocate one day a year to this often yearned for and seldom found state of delight. I am sure many people like myself, who at times struggle to find a smidgen of elation in the reality that surrounds them, were elated by the notion that for one whole day happiness would be at the very centre of our day. Now my default mood is one of snark and sarcasm, so joining in the fun would require some effort on my part, but I was willing to go the distance.
So there I was, full of anticipation of harmony to come and humming Joyful, Joyful under my breath, when I switched on the kettle for my much needed morning dose of caffeine only to find that there was no electricity. Which also meant there was not going to be any water. A pot on the stove took care of the coffee and my emergency stash of water bottles facilitated being clean but by then my determined smile had started to slightly turn into a jaw-clenched, pinched-nosed grin.
I will spare you the woeful and unoriginal tales of hours spent listening to the worst Egyptian music has to offer in the back of a taxi as it inched its way towards the office. I noticed the remnants of two minibuses on the side of the road, windows smashed and their sides crumpled like yesterdays paper. Certainly nothing joyful there. Nor did I think there was anything positive in the excitement to be seen in the face of the man in the luxurious car as he shouted at the street kid that he Did Not Want Any Tissues.
Having arrived at the office my good intentions were severely tried when my sunny good morning, a little poetic licence there since my trip had taken a while, was met with a few uninterested grunts. Instead, stories of lynchings in governorates, brutality and disappearing activists twirled around the office and as I sat at my desk I realised I had started humming the soundtrack of the Omen instead of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and felt my idyllic day of bliss starting to slip out of my grasp.
A deep breath, a stern internal talking to and humming, albeit shrilly, Oh Happy Day, and I smiled at all and sundry. The effect was negligible; not only did my colleagues pay little to no attention to me, the one that did looked scared. “What’s wrong with your face?” asked the art and culture reporter in a whisper, cowering behind the screen of her computer. Since I could think of many, unhappy, things to say that would lead to a sure return to snarkiness I decided to ignore her. Something she seemed to be thankful for.
As the day progressed and deadlines were ignored by contributors, appointments got cancelled and promised photographs failed to be delivered, my grip on gaiety became more slippery by the hour. With staunch stubbornness and by the skin of my teeth I was barely hanging on and looking at the bright side of life.
“What is wrong?” asked one of my colleagues, with a sweet smile. “Why do you look so cross? Don’t you know it is Happiness Day today?” In the few seconds that followed her questions I could hear something snap and as I looked down I saw I had cracked the mouse of my computer clean in half.
“I am happy!” I roared, as I smacked its remnants against the wall.