I love the feeling that something exciting is going on, even if it doesn’t affect me.

This sign is posted all over my neighborhood. The truly charming thing about it is that the sign’s words are printed in green, and there’s a faint green shamrock behind the words. Think of it: someone in the city bureaucracy actually took the time and effort to print the words in green. That’s the spirit!

This is one of the things that I love most about New York City—the sense that things are astir, that people are excited about some happening of which I know nothing.

I never thought much about St. Patrick’s Day in NYC until a few years ago, when I happened to walk down Second Avenue on the afternoon of the parade. It was jammed with people, with green and shamrocks and Irish flags everywhere. How had I never seen this before?

Last year, when I served on a jury, the policeman who was on the witness stand and the judge both wore green ties on March 17.

It’s like Fashion Week, or when the United Nations meets, or Chinese New Year, or when Wagner’s Ring cycle is at the Metropolitan Opera House. These events don’t matter to me, but I love the feeling that something exciting is happening nearby. One day, who knows, maybe I’ll decide to show up, too.

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Zoikes, there’s a lot of great material at Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog. Talk about a happiness project — she actually MOVED cities, from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin — because the happiness research indicated that she’d be happier there.

I guess the pleasure of seeing the signs for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade wasn’t quite enough to keep her here.

Her explanation of why she moved, and the happiness data she drew on, is fascinating.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • http://profile.typekey.com/akm28/ TasterSpoon

    Wait, wait, wait. You clerked for the Supreme Court and they still let you sit on a jury?

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    Yep, they sure did! I’ve actually served on two juries — one in NYC and one in Washington, DC. Serving on a jury is inconvenient, and both cases were incredibly upsetting, but both times I came away with tremendous respect for the U.S. system and for my fellow citizens. So remember: jury duty might make you very happy.

  • Will

    What is it about the experience that increased your respect for the justice system and fellow citizens?

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    In both instances, I sat on the jury of a criminal trial. Both times, the defense lawyers did an excellent job defending the clients (and in both times, in the face of overwhelming and distressing evidence); the prosecuting attorneys were excellent and fair; the judges were fair, smart, and clear in their dealings with the jury. And in both cases, the people on the jury took the responsibility extremely seriously, and deliberated with respect and focus. We were wildly different from each other, but came together to meet this task.
    In both cases, I was so inspired to see the system work exactly as it was supposed to. I loved that aspect of working at the Supreme Court — of important work being done at the highest level of professionalism. And it was reassuring to see that the system was working so well at the state trial level, too.
    On a personal level, the second time I served on a jury — it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. It’s hard for me to think about it, it was so upsetting and yet so moving.
    My one disappointment with the NYC trial was that the court didn’t include the moment that was my favorite part of clerking — when Justices have just come to the bench, and the Marshal says, “The Honorable Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable Supreme Court of the United States are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”
    The Second Circuit (where I also was a clerk) has its own version of that. I got tears in my eyes every time I heard it, not sure why. The majesty of justice, I suppose.

  • Georges

    Love the blog – this reminded me of it:
    Claremont Graduate University is starting a new Ph.D. program in positive psychology — believed to be the first doctoral program that will focus on how people get happy… http://www.pr.com/press-release/32819

  • http://lifeasdaddy.typepad.com/lifeasdaddy Bob M

    Big things happening in my great city of Sydney give me a frisson of excitement too.
    Recently two huge ocean liners the Queen Mary II and the Queen Elizabeth II were docked in Sydney Harbour on the same day. Sightseers in their tens of thousands thronged to the foreshore to take pics and gawk. Traffic was at a standstill. Check out the photo here:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/travel/ocean-colossus-glides-into-sydney/2007/02/20/1171733718091
    And yesterday as part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge 75th birthday celebrations it was closed to vehicular traffic and opened for pedestirans. 200,000 people walked across the bridge. Photos here:
    http://www.smh.com.au/photogallery/2007/03/18/1174152858574
    I didn’t attend either public, free events Gretchen, but I liked that they were going on in my town.

  • http://www.michaelmelcher.blogspot.com Michael

    I just discovered the HBO show “Taxicab Confidential” and I LOVE it for the same reason you pointed out — I just love seeing all the interesting people in New York doing all sorts of interesting things (like going to parties in Williamsburg at 3:00 a.m. or having dinner downtown with their 85 year old mother) that I don’t actually do … but am glad that they exist as possibilities!