The Philadelphia Happiness Project: 12 Ways to Overcome City-Induced Angst

Even when someone spits on your open-toed shoes.

I was climbing off the bus the other day when I saw something white and foamy whiz by my open-toed sandal. I looked down—it felt like slow motion—and simultaneously realized that it was a massive globule of human spittle, flying like a tiny comet about two centimeters away from my pinky toe. I immediately looked up to sigh aggressively at the spitter and furiously stomped off the bus, my mood soured. The oblivious spitter moseyed on.

Not 30 seconds before Spitgate, I had been perfectly content, sitting in my seat reading that book, The Happiness Project. Do you know it? (Evidently, it’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for roughly a jillion weeks.) I’m not very far in, but the premise revolves around the author—a mom, wife and former Supreme Court law clerk named Gretchen Rubin—deciding to make several large-scale resolutions in her daily life (i.e. “let it go”; “act the way I want to feel”), which lead her to tweak everything from her irritating habits to her messy closets. The idea, of course, is that this all leads to a life where she’s … happier.

Anyway, I had just been thinking that hey, maybe I should clean my closets when the spit happened. In the days following, it has occurred to me that the large-scale Happiness Project is all well and good, but there might also be a corresponding Happiness Project specifically geared for Philly residents. Like, for Gretchen Rubin, one secret to a happy life is to not procrastinate irritating chores. For me, one secret to a happy life (in Philly) is to accept that the spitters and honkers and yellers are as much a part of this city’s fabric as the Liberty Bell and the Phanatic. Being furious about it is about as useful as being furious at the narrow streets.

And so, a few resolutions I am making that I think might lead to a happier Philly life:

The Philadelphia Happiness Project

  1. I will let go of the spit/honking/yelling rage.
  2. From now on, when a cabbie drives 50 m.p.h. in a 30 zone, jumps or runs every red light, or almost hits more than one pedestrian, I’m just going to get out. No cab ride is worth the ulcer-inducing stress of wondering when/how to tell him to be careful, for God’s sake while composing your own obit in your head on the way home from El Vez.
  3. And in that vein: More walking. Less driving, cabs and subway.
  4. Yes to Spruce, Pine and Lombard. No to Chestnut and South.
  5. More Rita’s.
  6. I will greet every person I speak to with the same sunshiny warmth as the wonderful women who own the fruit cart at 18th and Chestnut.
  7. I will carry good-quality granola bars in my purse, so when hungry people ask me for food, I readily have it to give.
  8. I will take Kelly Drive, or West River Drive, or any drive that gets me off the Schuylkill.
  9. I will come up with some mantra (“serenity now, serenity now …”) that will keep me from being cross with my fellow sidewalk citizens who refuse EVER to scoot out of my way, forcing me ALWAYS to scoot out of theirs. Serenity now.
  10. I will not go to Trader Joe’s on Sundays. Ever.
  11. I will go to the Rittenhouse tree lighting, I will watch the fireworks over Penn’s Landing, I will shop at the Italian Market, I will take advantage of the Free Library’s speaker series, I will watch quirky movies at the Ritz Five, I will buy stuff at Art Star.
  12. I will carry a hankie. For dirty seats, for using those trashcan handles, for the poorly aimed balls of spit.

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