It’s great to be alive (not)

When we dragged ourselves into the office Monday morning, most of us were not particularly refreshed by the weekend. In fact, most of us had spent Sunday “working,” which at my location generally means waiting for work that never comes. (I know that sounds like an easy job, but doing nothing can actually be quite arduous).

Nobody was in a good mood, and it only got worse when one of our resident optimists arrived with cheer for all. Kathy is never sad and rarely quiet, though a recent bout of laryngitis had given us a brief respite for a few days. “Good morning,” she cried out to no one in particular. “How are you? Good to see you. Did you have a nice weekend? Good, good.”

The outgoing personality, or “extrovert,” is generally regarded as someone who’s fun to be around, who reinforces feelings of goodwill in a group, who comes into a room like a breath of fresh air. I don’t like these people. Their enforcement of positivity when all common sense dictates that a different perspective is more appropriate flies in the face of reality. The economy sucks, the environment stinks, and we’re all going to die – get used to it.

I call this segment of the population “the chipper”. Like the mute, the infirm and the Canadian, this is a group very much deserving of basic human rights and equal treatment under the law. We should not disrespect them and we should not run over them with our cars. They are to be accommodated, even occasionally welcomed for the richness they add to our world.

But unlike those other groups, the chipper are very much responsible for their own situation, yet choose to do little or nothing to lift themselves above their disability. In fact, they see themselves as generally superior to others, and try earnestly to rope the rest of us into their perky enclaves. You don’t see the blind going around trying to poke the rest of us in the eye (at least not on purpose); similarly, we shouldn’t expect to have to be cheerful just because our coworkers are.

The dictionary defines the chipper as “a machine that grinds up logs, tree trunks, and other wood products into wood chips.” Though that might be a little harsh, it’s generally a spot-on description of these folks. Any semblance I might have of a good mood is quickly dissipated when someone who’s happier than I could ever hope to be takes over a room by sheer force of personality. I feel like I’ve been chopped into a thousand tiny pieces by their rapid fire of laughter, then disgorged into a compost heap. Okay, maybe not that bad, but bad enough.

Being chipper is not the same thing as being nice. It means being a busybody, pressing your character into every available niche like some kind of social caulk. On this particular morning, for example, Kathy has noticed a coworker is missing and so gives her a call at home to check up on her. “Are you all right?” she shrieks into the phone. “I was worried about you.” The colleague is fine, she’s assured, or at least she was before the sleep that had provided fleeting relief to her nausea was shattered by a phone call. “You take care now, you here?” she’s instructed. “I’ll be thinking about you.”

This overly intense personality style also tends to manifest itself in an excessive politeness that I’d characterize as grating – a good thing for cheese but not for an associate. We actually have at least two of the chipper in my particular office, and they occasionally find themselves in this conversational mobius strip that confounds even them. I call it the “TYNTY loop” because it starts with one saying “thank you” and the other responding “no, thank you.” This may actually continue for several rounds in jest before a concerned friend steps in with the threat of physical harm. There’s usually a “sir” or a “ma’am” thrown in for good measure, and profuse apologies at the slightest sign of any shortcomings by either party. “Oh, I am so sorry,” Kathy says when she’s slightly misunderstood. “No, no, you’re fine, you’re fine,” assures Jerry, her partner in joy. Don’t debate this endlessly, I want to interject. You’re both sorry.

After being around these folks for a while, you begin to wonder if there might be a pathology at the root of such an annoying condition. Since I’m not a clinically trained mental health professional, I turned instead to a website called to see if a diagnosis might be possible. Sure enough, I found a condition called Histrionic Personality Disorder. In an entry subtitled “Look at Me!” I learned more about HPD.

“Histrionic personality disorder is defined by a constant need for approval, which reveals itself as constant attention seeking and a need to be the center of events,” reads the article. “In order to stay in the spotlight, people with HPD may resort to emotional dramatics and a ‘theatrical’ self-presentation.”

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Kathy and Jerry. Let’s give a big round of applause.

Deep down, I probably harbor a secret desire to be as free of cynicism as these carefree sprites. I know I can come across as a misanthropic curmudgeon at times, but it’s only because I despise people so intensely. I too have a deep desire for the approval of others; however, if I tried so obviously to get it, I’m afraid I’d be too humiliated by any perceived rejection to ever recover. They seem to be so satisfied with their place in the world and so happy to be alive. I may be glad I’m not dead, yet that’s about as far as I’ll go.

Maybe I can summon a more modest aspiration. I’ve occasionally stumbled across crusty old Regis Philbin while flipping around the TV dial and he seems to get along well enough with that Chairwoman of the Chipper, Kelly Ripa. I understand they pay him about $21 million a year to do this. For that kind of money, I think I could overcome my petty skepticism, share in the smiley-faced bliss of this wonderful life and fully embrace the Kelly Ripa’s of the world. Well, one Kelly Ripa, anyway.


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7 Responses to “It’s great to be alive (not)”

  1. Scott Oglesby Says:

    It was with these people in mind that I invented a gun that kills, but only for 10 minutes. Long enough to get away! Unfortunatly, my childhood fantasy never came to fruition.

  2. Kym Says:

    The worst part is that we chipper folk read your rants and laugh maniacally. We know our power and revel! …and an excuse to laugh always cheers us up even more.

  3. conchapman Says:

    I used to work with a woman like that. Late one night I’m standing at the copier with another drone, trying to make a deadline. She comes up and we give her part of our drudgery to finish. “Great–super–terriffic–thanks!” she says as she takes the work and walks off.

    The guy I’m with looks at me and says “If that’s what she says when you give her a copy job, I wonder what she’s like after sex.”

  4. wrjones Says:

    Whoa – somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed. Give us a smile now. There, that’s better. Oh whistle while you work ta de da da, it’s a happy world today look at the sunshine. 🙂

  5. starlaschat Says:

    There has been times in my life that even the chirping birds annoyed me.

  6. megstermeter Says:

    Oh my gosh I love this. Here’s to the underwhelming jobs and the pain that comes with them. 🙂

  7. stinginthetail Says:

    lol – yr great 🙂 for me, the ‘always happy’ are fake – that’s why they annoy me so much – their happiness is about skin deep. Poke them hard, they cry and can’t stop. (I only did it the once, just to see what would happen.) Peel away the bonhomie and there’s a huge pit. Hence the need for constant attention to feed it.

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