In a word . . . Optimist

 

There’s a lady who’s sure/ All that glitters is gold/ And she’s buying a stairway to heaven. I never met Robert Plant, who wrote that song for Led Zeppelin, but the track remains one of my favourites. Perhaps all those glorious associations with a well-spent, misspent youth.

(It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of nothing but good health must be in want of a life. He should set about finding it loosely through the generous, wanton waste of his years; the better to have memories which he can relish as they warm his heart while he grows older and time and opportunity wane. Preserve your memories. They’re all that’s left you.)

There’s a lady I know whose cheery disposition is like a blunt instrument which can be the exact opposite of her conversation. Her innate optimism is so excessive it would give hope a bad name. And it’s in stark contrast to the topics she talks about. That said I find pessimists a test, up there with the perennially cynical as least favourite people.

Back to “Our Lady of the Forever Bright Golden Haze on the Meadow”. She works in a coffee shop I frequent. It begins.

Me: “Coffee please.” She: (sweetly) “and how are we today? Terrible about those 150 people who drowned in the Mediterranean last night? Capuchino?”

Me: “No. Americano, please.” She: “And that massacre in Munich? All those young people just enjoying themselves. Anything else?”

Me: “No. Thank you.”

She: “And that awful car bomb in Istanbul. 58 dead. Muffin?”

Me: “Shocking. Okay, a muffin.” She: “Of course there was the terrible murder in Cabinteely last night. The husband, they say. Her body, badly mutilated. Lemon or blueberry.”

Me “. . . ah?” She: “. . . the muffin?” Me: “O . . . lemon.” She: “They say two homeless people died in the city last night. And it’s not safe to walk the streets. A toasted sandwich? Anything like that?”

Me: “No, no thanks.” She: “Of course it could be worse. We don’t have earthquakes here. Look at all those poor people killed in Italy. And the lovely buildings destroyed.”

Me: “Terrible.” She: “There’s your coffee and your muffin. Have a nice day.” And she smiles beatifically without a care in the world.

Optimist from the French optimiste, via Latin optimum, meaning “greatest good”, from Latin optimus, “the best”.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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