“In the Beatles’ song, Hey Bulldog, John Lennon wrote, ‘some kind of happiness is measured out in miles.’ While the lyrics are interesting enough food for thought, it’s the key phrase, ‘happiness is measured’ I’d like to talk to you about tonight, and I… well, I do consider myself something of an expert on that subject.
“Good evening, y’all… I’m Tape.
“Many of you are looking up here thinking ‘Hey, that tape looks familiar,’ and I assure you… you probably do not know me personally. Many of you are looking up here thinking, ‘What makes you an expert on happiness, Fool?’ and I assure you… my tales do sometimes have happy endings.
“Take a look at me. I’m harmless enough, right? What am I? A bunch of enumerated graduations. I’m sure some see my black lines and others see my white spaces. There are probably a few of you in the front row here convinced I’m coiled up and ready to strike when you’re not paying attention and I assure you… you should pay attention!
“Happiness. Is. Measured.
“Many of you are just confused. [squeaks] What the hell are you talking about, Tape?
“And that is an excellent question. This was billed as a lecture on depression after all. I’ll let the other speakers get back to that bad boy in a bit, but for now, be proud of yourselves for recognizing that happiness and depression are pretty much not the same thing.
“You see… happiness…. is… measured, just not in miles. Unless you have a really good program with your credit card company.
“It’s measured… in expectation. As not just a witness, but a participant… in countless measurements… I am here to tell you folks, it’s not the graduations on the tape you should fear, but your expectations of them.
“A good friend of mine, Yardstick, has a gig at an amusement park working rides. He was telling me today about a little boy standing in one of the lines. Things were going slowly and the caller was working the crowd to keep their patience. Girl had it going on too. ‘Do we have any birthdays out there?’ And of course it was this kid’s birthday, so his whole family and half the people waiting in line are all singing for him and clapping their hands. He was a celebrity! Finally, it was his turn to go on the ride, and Yard goes up to him…’Woops, sorry buddy. YOU DON’T MEASURE UP. You’ll have to step on through.’
“See now y’all aren’t laughing. But I’m still talking about happiness here.
“This kid starts bawling, and of course, rules are rules. He’s too short. He can’t ride. I know, I know… a lot of you are thinking that this is his parents’ fault for not paying attention at the entrance, or that the park should have had someone screening him before he waited in line… but that doesn’t matter! Let’s look at this as a no-fault expectation.
“Two very simple things are true. First… if this kid had come to the amusement park expecting that no one cared that it was his birthday, the attention and the song would have made his day. Guess what? Exactly! That’s how it went down! Yard never saw so much joy on a kid’s face. Second… and this is very, very important, folks… second… no matter how happy this kid was, it couldn’t save him from his false expectation to ride that ride.
“False expectations are the ones coiled up ready to get you. [lurches toward a nervous lady in the front row eliciting a short scream… smiles] Sorry, Ma’am… men don’t scream very well or I’d have picked on him. [points]
“I don’t get to do carnival rides. My biggest gigs are weddings. I do bridal gowns and tuxedos. I’m the difference between 36 being a 10 or a 6 with some expensive alterations. Truth is, I usually get the dull jobs… matching a pattern or preliminary fittings. But I hear every day the expectations, ‘I should be a 28 waist’ and I… I have suffered the blame when the expectations are not met. ’31!!! Give me that thing! Hmm… 31… you should get a new one of these.’ I’ve fished myself out of the trash more than once.
“Now, I’ve made some jokes here tonight, but this is serious business. I’ve been around for centuries. I’ve seen expectations come and go, and I’m here to tell you… expectations can kill. I once belonged to a tailor who lost his head when he wrapped me around a waist and read off the number.
“Tragedies are not usually that extreme. I measured a little girl’s growth once. There was a period where every day she ran to the marking on the door jamb to see if she was any taller. Her disappointment didn’t come from an expectation that she would grow. She kept waiting for the measurement that would catch up with her brother’s, and she was crushed when every new mark of hers was matched by another of his.
“Happiness… is measured by expectation. My little girl would have been happy, if she had simply expected to grow. My tailor could have worn his head another day if his mistress had simply expected the measurement she heard. My bride could have saved me a trip to the trash if she had only changed… her expectations.
“I’m going to go now, and give it up for the next speaker, but I want to leave you with this thought. Maybe… y’all are happy with what I have to say. Maybe you aren’t. But, next time you pick me up, before you throw me in the trash again, ask yourself… what did you expect?
“I’m Tape, y’all. Good night.”
© 2012 Anne Schilde