Define Happiness: The Act Of Making Someone Else Happy

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Mattias Geniar, August 28, 2009

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I don't often write something personal (and before you remove this site from your RSS reader, I won't be doing that too often), and usually keep things tech-savvy, but this I felt I had to share. It's about happiness, romanians, body language and charisma.

Bear with me, it’s about to make more sense.

Let’s start at the beginning. I work at a Belgian hosting provider, which is located in the Port of Antwerp, one of the biggest in Belgium. Working late one Friday evening, I decided to grab a bite at around 21:00h. Night had fallen, the sky was totally black. I walk outside our office building, and find a man walking around aimlessly, holding his (fairly bald) head together with his two arms. He’s obviously in distress.

He slowly walks to me, and starts talking rapidly in a foreign (at this point, undefined) language. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but saw him pointing at a piece of paper with an address on it. The Sherlock Holmes in me deducted he probably had to be at that address, instead of this abandoned office building late at night. The big yellow truck behind him probably gave away that clue, too. I read the address, but had no clue where it was.

At this point, I normally would’ve gotten in my car with built-in GPS, and just drove home. Screw him.

Would that make me a prick? Would you trust a trucker late at night, when you’re all alone?

Having rememberd the movie Yes Man, I felt like saying “yes” for a change. Let’s do a good deed, and help this lad out. Using body language that would’ve impressed quite an audience, I guided him to my car (and I think at this point he was probably thinking “should I trust this IT guy late at night, when I’m all alone?"), forcefully removed the paper with the address from his hands, and entered it into my GPS.

He saw the route he had to take, but somehow couldn’t orient himself to get there, despite my best efforts in Dutch, French, German, English and Sign Language. Probably because I was confusing all 5 of those amongst eachother, making it complete gibberish.

In between this hectic explanation, he managed to get the following phrases out, in several languages other than my own: “been looking for this address for 3 hours”, “am totally lost”, “am from Romania”, “come from Holland”.

Still thinking about that movie, I figured it was time to show this Romanian man true Belgian hospitality. Using yet more sign language, I managed to get him to take his truck, and follow me in my car – while I was following the GPS to his destination. Once we arrived to the place, entirely in the middle of nowhere in some obscure ally in the Port of Antwerp, he was still lost.

The company name his cargo was addressed to, was nowhere to be found. Lucky for him, in that same street is an emergency hospital, that is open 24/7. Since I, after nearly 30 minutes of die-hard interpretation, managed to understand where his cargo needed to go, I thought I’d go to the hospital and ask for directions.

Unfortunately, the only person there at that time, was performing some kind of surgery on a man having just injured his head. Thinking my timing could’ve been worse (it could have been a woman having injured her head, for instance – in stead of a man), I asked this doctor where the heck this Romanian guy had to be. He couldn’t point me in any sensible direction either, so I took my newly found Romanian buddy out for a walk, in the dark streets of the Port.

We walked around the block, in search of his drop-off address.

He then managed to utter the word “coffee”, and pointed at his truck. Now that’s where he hit the motherload: coffee. As an IT-er, I know my coffee. I practically live off it. He had to deliver my sweet, sensitive and addictive coffee to one of these warehouses.

We then walked the block again, but in a slighly different way: using our noses. We litterely sniffed the air. I guess it was around this point that I was starting to feel silly, walking around with a total stranger who doesn’t understand a word I say, inhaling deep breaths of air inside a Port. Death was imminent, I could feel it.

But then it struck us both: a soft smell of coffee entered our nostrels, and entered our minds. We could actually smell the warehouse, my plan had succeeded (granted, it was above all expectations). Two minutes later, we found the warehouse – which some genius forgot to label properly to get the company name on it.

All in all, we spent about 45 minutes searching his address. He had spent the last 3 hours in panic, because he did not deliver his cargo in time. He would’ve spent an entire night in panic, if I had decided to just go home.

The moment that man saw his destination, it seemed like he could finally breath properly. He actually sighed with relief, and was truely, and sincerely, happy. Walking back to his truck, he showed me a map of the surroundings someone drew for him, so he could find directions.

It contained about 3 lines, all highways not even remotely close to where we were.

I helped that man. From panic to happiness, in a mere 45 minutes. I dare challenge any shrink to do the same.

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