So what makes you happy?
It's a strange question, I know.
For me, it's a lot of things.
I'm a pretty happy person.
("Ha!" I picture my wife, who is a truly happy person, saying to herself, reading this. "Mr. Morose considers himself happy. I'd hate to meet someone he views as glum.")
But it's true. Generally, as a general condition, I'm enjoying myself and grateful for it. Sure, there are challenges. I've got a nettlesome, relentless job in an industry that's falling apart in big chunks. Two teenage boys who, if they're not Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, still can throw a wrench in the works. The usual aches and pains of a guy in his mid-50s.
Nevertheless, most days, most of the time, I like to think I have a certain baseline satisfaction in life, a pilot light of contentment flickering blue in the background.
And sometimes, on rare occasion, something happens that makes me really happy.
Often it's the damnedest, unexpected thing. Some tiny development. Big stuff doesn't do it; selling a new book, getting a fat royalty check, doesn't do it. Too many details to sweat.
But the basket on this bicycle. Well, let me tell you.
For 21 years, I've had this Schwinn Cruiser — buying it was so fraught it showed up in my book "Complete & Utter Failure," in the chapter on perfection, which of course is impossible.
I bought a bike this year, after having not had a bike for my entire adult life. My perfection jones was made worse by the extra emotional baggage surrounding the concept of a new bicycle—king in the pantheon of traditional toys for boys: the train set, the first baseman's mitt, the bicycle. It was a big deal for me, and I approached the event with a certain solemnity, the good boy getting his deserved bike, the righting of an ancient wrong. To make matters worse, I selected the bicycle purely on aesthetics. Rejecting complexities such as shiftable gears, and new developments such as mountain bikes, I picked out a one-speed black Schwinn Cruiser with fat whitewall tires and coaster brakes.No basket, of course. Didn't want to wreck the line of the bike. Which also limited its usefulness, and I didn't ride it much. There aren't many places in Northbrook to ride a bike.
Once I started riding the Divvy bikes downtown, however, it reminded me how fun and useful a bike could be. Getting from Point A to Point B, doing errands, weaving through the heavy downtown traffic. I've ridden the Divvy more downtown these past two years than I've ridden this Schwinn in 20.
That got me thinking. The Divvy has this front rack. Very handy, for packages and books and such. If I put a back rack on the Schwinn, it would be more useful, zipping over to Sunset Foods.
So I rode it over to George Garner Cyclery, a fancy bike store at Shermer and Waukegan. The back racks were these aluminum affairs and didn't seem to fit with the style of the bike. This black wire front basket did, cost only 30 bucks, and the guy at the store even installed it for me and then wouldn't let me pay him for his efforts.
The basket lifts out and everything, then locks in tight. Quite a piece of engineering.
I rode away delighted, thinking: "Wow, a basket. That worked." Having spent two decades balancing shopping bags on my handlebars, now I am properly equipped. This is progress. The bike even looks better. Not only did getting the basket make me happy, but I was even happier once I realized that it made me happy — I'm glad to be the kind of person who is made happy by a new bike basket. If you can be happy about the small things, then life holds out promise.