Pauley couldn’t decide if she should feel ‘cranky’ today because she burnt her coffee, or if she should choose the ‘stressed out’ option instead. She was always more productive when she was stressed out, even if it was an exhausting choice by the end of the day. But what better mood for a Monday.
Pauley got up from her morning seat and left behind her disappointing coffee to go set the Mood Maker 3000. She typed her selection onto the screen and toggled the knob on the side to slightly increase the setting. Just slightly, though, because high-strung only suited her to a point. Too far to the right and she would be impossible to deal with all day, and she had far too many meetings today to allow that to happen.
With the dials in their optimal positions, Pauley lowered her face to optimally position her face into the main visor of the Mood Maker and tapped the start key. A purple light flashed twice, and it was done.
Oh my god! I’m going to be late, Pauley thought to herself. When she stepped back from the machine she proceeded to step on the cat’s tail which yelped and made Pauley lose her balance. She managed to catch herself before she fell over, but now had to face an even bigger problem than an upset kitty. For the life of her, Pauley couldn’t remember where she put her keys!
After a frantic search, she found the keys where she always left them, on the ring by the door. Keys in hand she flew out the door of her apartment, ran down the hall and punched the elevator button several times. Pauley began to impatiently rap her fingers on her purse. Why did everything seem to take that much longer when you were stressed out? Maybe I adjusted the setting a little too high today, she considered. But finally the elevator door opened.
“Would you hurry it up, woman! This isn’t your personal carriage you know,” bellowed Mr. Katz who was already waiting impatiently for the ride down. Pauley lowered her head quickly and didn’t say a word. It was useless to say anything when Mr. Katz chose to be angry. It didn’t happen all that often which was a blessing. She had once overheard him remark that one time he chose ‘angry’ two days in a row – just to get it over with – and he nearly had a heart attack. Pauley just didn’t understand why anyone would be foolish enough to wear the same emotion two days in a row except perhaps by accident. Being angry was another one of those exhausting settings, so it was understandable that most people wanted to get their quota out of the way quickly. But the whole point to the Mood Maker 3000 was – as the slogan said – to secure healthier living through emotional stability, and angry was just one of those moods you had to go through.
Finally, the interminable elevator ride ended with a subtle jerking sensation. Mr. Katz growled and loudly stormed out, nearly knocking over Charlie the doorman, while Pauley became pre-occupied with digging through her purse in search of her bus pass. She was going to be so late! And, of course, as soon as she found her missing pass buried in the depths of her purse, she lost her grip on the bag and completely upended it, scattering all its contents across the floor.
Charlie immediately ran over and started to pick up some of the runaway items. Pauley knew he was only trying to help, but it wasn’t helping because he kept handing things to her out of order. Then, to top it all off, Charlie made to catch her eye.
“Miss Pauley,” he exalted, “you’re looking lovelier than ever today.”
“Thank you, Charlie,” she said curtly. “But I’m in a hurry.” How could Charlie be so stupid as to try and cheer people up, especially on a Monday morning?
Pauley tried to push past him, but Charlie just smiled and took her arm gently – but firmly – and escorted her through the front entrance.
“It’s such a beautiful day, Miss Pauley! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there’s a magical sense of peace settling on the world today. It’s just a joy to behold,” sighed Charlie. He smiled even more brightly. As they stepped outside he reached out and snapped off a lilac blossom from the bush outside the door.
He presented it to Pauley.
For a moment, as the scent of the flower caught her nose, Pauley was caught off guard and she accepted Charlie’s gift with a mild sense of wonder. It was just so beautiful that Pauley couldn’t help but breathe in the fragrant beauty of the lilac. Then she smiled, forgetting all about her worries for the day to come.
“There,” Charlie said. “Isn’t that better?”
Coming out of her reverie, Pauley shook her head to regain her focus and glared back at Charlie. She turned and quickly walked to the curb to hail a taxi, the bus would be decidedly too slow. After about the longest two minutes, an empty cab finally arrived. As Pauley opened the door and climbed in, she glanced back at Charlie. There he was, still with that bright smile on his face, pressed against the pavement and being handcuffed by two officers as they read him his rights.
Pauley almost felt sorry for Charlie, but he clearly hadn’t planned his mood selection quotas well enough for the last few weeks. How could he be so stupid to only have the ‘jovial’ selection remaining, and on a Monday morning of all things!
She wanted to feel sorry for him, but it was his own fault. Everyone knew it wasn’t healthy to ruin someone else’s mood.
(I was inspired to write this one day when I was in a very bad mood and something in the news made me laugh, oddly, all I could think was “how dare you try to make me feel better!” It was one of ‘those’ days. Note: this story was rejected by Daily Science Fiction…live and learn.)