Disarmed and Discombobulated

WaitressI am having something of an identity crisis.

Yesterday I woke up knowing that I would face the mountainous terrain of Serbian bureaucracy in order to finish the establishment of my branding agency. It is mountainous, full of crags, hairpin turns, and impasses due to rock slides, and while it is not impossibly high in altitude, it takes a climber of a certain determination to traverse.

Yesterday morning, that was NOT me.

The dawn arose menacingly. I was full of dread. I was sure that everything would go wrong and one paper would be missing at each administrative stop. So I went out, heavily laden with Documentation, and made my way to the first stop: the fortifying morning coffee. And then I suddenly lost my bearings.

Being something of a grumpy person – as attested in this blog and my book – part of my daily rituals include grumbling and expecting the worst (and usually being rewarded with same), and committing it to words in a cynical, snarky way. So when I ordered my coffee at one of usual haunts and was greeted with a friendly smile and cheerful demeanor, I was naturally taken aback.

Customer service has always been a treasure trove of material for my grumpiness. Waiting for the waiter forever, not getting the bill after asking for it 20 times, and getting systematically short-changed are deep wells of source material. At this very café, a few months ago, I had an incident which has so far not been logged. I came in around 9 a.m., found a table, and started to sit down.

“Are you having breakfast?” the waiter barked.
“Just coffee,” I said.
“This table is only for breakfast.”
“Ok then. Maybe I will have breakfast.”
“We don’t serve breakfast now.
“So I will sit here now.”
“No.”
“No?!?”
“This table is only for breakfast.”

And I walked. As it was early, this set the tone for the rest of the day and I trudged around angry and ready to go after them in these pages. But somehow I forgot.

Yesterday, being utterly disarmed and discombobulated by Friendly and Cheerful, I hardly knew what to do. I stuttered out my usual order – which the waitress completed for me since I was a predictable regular for the past few days. She smiled and went off to get it.

Spock_shocked[This is a moment when the camera would sharply zoom in on my slack-jawed dumbfounded expression, and some kind of Twilight Zone music would be cued.]

In the time it took me to recompose myself, she was back, smiling again, with my coffee, water, and a hospitable izvolte.

All at once, the tenor of the day ahead of me changed. Suddenly the mountainous terrain seemed smoother. Somehow the impasses cleared. And, strangely, the hairpin turns became wider. As I walked away, heading toward the day’s gauntlet, my step was lighter and I was feeling – I realized – Generally Encouraged.

I had been infected.

The grumpy guy in me might now wax vitriolic on how rare it is for people to smile. But that’s not going to happen. Her contagious good mood had taken me over and – even now as write this – still holds sway. I am not at all finished with the crossing, but the way still seems clear.

You can imagine my crisis of identity now. Am I on the slippery slope to Upbeat and Positive? Has Grumpy been defeated? In a way it frightens me – not knowing what to do when the the second edition of my grumpy book arrives this week. Do I now have to write Generally Congenial in Belgrade?

Part of me hopes so…

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