And if you see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don't cost very much, and it lasts a long while
Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone,
No, I'm just tryin' to have me some fun.
Words and music by John Prine
I had an illegal smile today. It happened about four miles north of work after I'd slipped out early to pick up Mr. Attitude from daycare so The Hermit could get home from a meeting on time to start up the fire in the house and warm us all up. This time of year, leaving the house for any length of time takes planning.
Anyway, you may ask yourself, what is an "illegal smile"? Well, I got to know the term belatedly from a circa 1970's John Prine song of the same name. Many assumed he was talking about a smile elicited from illegal substances. Prine defended himself on numerous occasions, saying the smile he mentioned was obtainable by legal as well as illegal means. I'll side with Prine.
I have come to think of an "illegal smile" as any personal pleasure that comes from means that are not commercially controlled, or that are largely ignored by most of the population. That is, if I laugh at a line from an NBC TV show, that is "normal". If I laugh at something I discover on my own, that is what is known as an illegal smile.
So I had a great illegal smile today. On my way home from work I had just gotten over seeing a red tailed hawk. Suddenly, there was a flock of brown blobs getting up from the right side of the road, heading towards the left. Sharp tailed grouse. I'm glad one didn't hit my windshield, they were that close. There were four of them.
The rush I got from that experience was incredible. Which led me to thinking, how much is a personal encounter with a bird worth? To me, a lot. And, to anyone who doesn't gain a thing from a bird encounter, I suggest you need to lighten up. A lot.
Every time I encounter a bird, I have an illegal smile. That is, I don't smile based upon what the entertainment technology of my age has produced. I smile because I see something that makes me happy.