Dancing your way to happiness

Dancing your way to happiness January 29, 2012

There’s a new video going viral about a traffic cop who dances to Michael Jackson tunes while conducting very heavy traffic. Perhaps you’ve seen it?



The Filipino cop says he dances because “I want to show somebody to be happy.”

But here in Oregon we have our own happy people. For years now, I’ve laughed every time I drive by the Little Caesar’s Pizza Lady in Bend, Oregon.


Forbes Magazine released an article about the 10 best loved jobs (and 10 most-hated) and I’m happy to say that here in this household we made the top ten of the best loved — teaching and writing.  Not to say I haven’t had jobs that I hated. Oh, buddy, have I.

I’ve changed bedpans in nursing homes, ordered up junior Whoppers, cleaned up nasty motel rooms, played the local disc jokey role, and once faced cans in a grocery store. That last job taught me an important lesson about myself — I can work hard but I cannot work bored. I quit that job after 30 minutes. For real. Shortest job stint in my lifetime.

I have a girlfriend who is diagnosed schizophrenic. She and I have been friends for decades. When I was working on my second book she said to me, “I wish I could be a writer so I could keep myself entertained.”

I laughed and said, “What are you talking about? You have voices talking to you all the time. That ought to keep you entertained plenty.”

A fit of giggles erupted from both of us.

I get that not everyone can dance on the job like the Filipino cop and the Pizza Lady in Bend. But happiness isn’t something that happens to us. It’s about the choices we make everyday. For more reading on this subject, check out the book Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit, edited by Sonny Brewer, who, in full disclosure, edited my forthcoming book.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says: If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else. Turns out the Filipino cop has it right, if you want to be happy, show somebody else what happiness looks like.

So what’s the worst job you’ve ever done? And what helped you endure it?





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  • Mattmmiles

    Thanks for this. I’m working at a Walmart after having taught English in South Korea for six years. I’m hoping to teach again and write/edit more in the future, but in the meantime, we need to eat and working in retail is a big part of the process. Having an absurd sense of humor helps. A couple of weeks ago, there was a need to dispose of dead fish in the pet section. I had to interrupt a discussion with fellow employees concerning how to dispose of them to note how much this paralleled a crime movie. Especially when we discussed how to get rid of them without anyone noticing. I mentioned the show Breaking Bad, and we all agreed that’s a good show. Smiles all around.

    A few days ago I saw a couple of college students sitting in front of a TV that’s a display for the Superbowl showing old football highlights from the 1960s. I asked if they were taking bets.

    For the most part I try to be calm and pleasant at work, but being an occasional smart-ass works too.

    • And the material you are absorbing will no doubt show up in future writing. If you get a chance to read Don’t Quit Your Day Job, I am betting you will relate to many of these writers. Thanks for sharing. The dead fish crime scene is funny. You should write it.

  • Just read that list, and : wow! My wife has one of the ten happiest jobs (Physical therapist) and I have had 3 of the ones on the most unhappy jobs. Including my current job, which is #1.

    • So have you been unhappy in those jobs? And if so, what do you do to cope with a job you don’t enjoy?

      • I’ve never had a job where I felt I was totally walking in who I was made to be. But I’m not terribly unhappy now. I do feel the pressure of knowing that decisions I make will affect all of our employees, though. And I especially feel the pressure when things are broken and nobody can do their work.

  • Worst jobs? I lasted a day in this one. Hired as an administration assistant for a woman, alone in a one room office, who was (supposedly) a film and TV project coordinator. My first day, she gave me a one hour orientation which basically consisted of her telling me everything she had done and who she knew in the industry, then spent the entire rest of the day on the phone trying to contact a film crew who were shooting a commercial locally to try and get herself hired as their production assistant. If my pay rate was based on how many times she said “Don’t you know who I am? Haven’t you heard of me?” I could have just worked one hour and gone home happy. While she name-dropped and tried to convince the film crew she was *somebody* she had me naming 5000 jpeg photos on a computer. There was just nowhere in that one room office for me escape from her ego. I didn’t go back.

  • Perhaps the worst job I ever had was one that I could not physically complete. In high school I held lots of waitress jobs but one time I took the waiteress-wannabe position at the town’s iconic restaurant… Like your one job, this only lasted about 30 minutes. I bused tables, fetched things for waitresses, and then was sent to the basement (cause where is a better place to keep an ice-maker?) to haul up two 5-gallon buckets full o’ ice… at the same time. Now, I’m not, nor have I ever been, a sissy nor a wimp, but I couldn’t do it. The manager treated me like a fool when I let go of one to lug the other up with both hands. I told him to show me how to do it. He sneered. I told him to keep my apron and give me my pay cause these boots were walking out the door.

    That guy did not let me get my fun-groove on.