There’s something sinister about people whose jollity seems forced. Relentless good humour strikes me as a strange and dark character trait.
Certain people are naturally very warm and friendly. I am not referring to these people. An example of such a person would be one of the staff in the Marks and Spencer, across the road from my house. He is a naturally smiley, chatty, good-humoured individual who exudes an aura of pleasantness. It brightens my day when he is behind the counter. He’s not what you’d describe as traditionally good-looking – with his sloping forehead and spindly legs he won’t be winning any beauty pageants. But his charm is attractive. And it seems genuine.
On the other hand there’s Beryl. Now Beryl is not her real name. But for the purpose of this story I ought to give her a title.
Beryl likes to drink coffee. As do I. If I meet Beryl at the coffee dock in the morning, my heart sinks. She is so relentlessly jolly that it makes my skin crawl. It makes my skin crawl because it is fake. I will smile blandly as she recounts the tale about how she had to fill the machine with coffee beans that morning, as so much coffee had been consumed already. Then she will roar with laughter at her own resourcefulness.
‘And we don’t want to deal with people who’ve not had their coffee now do we?’ she’ll bellow. And then explode with laughter again.
Throughout the day I’ll hear peals of laughter and merriment from the other side of he building. Beryl means business.
It verges on hysteria. I get the sense that one false move and it will be nervous breakdown country. I know that it is insincere, as I have been silently observing Beryl’s interactions with others. As she is telling someone else about how she refilled the coffee beans (which is all she ever seems to do) and shrieking with delirious laughter, I have noticed that the millisecond that her companion’s back is turned, the smile is instantly wiped from her face. To be replaced with the usual harsh glare and beady little eyes.
And I’ve seen how, when people cross her, the venom that can come spewing in an instant. A cutting remark, immediately followed by some zany quip, and high pitched squeal of laughter. It’s like she’d be roaring with amusement as she’d disembowel you.
This may be well be cruel on my part to mention – I don’t know her life.
What I do know that it sends a chill down my spine when I hear that laugh.