How My Taco Bell Coworker Helped Me Deal with Stress

Jim was my coworker. He and I worked together at Taco Bell.

I was in high school. He was probably in his early 40s, a single dad of three kids. Serving late night burritos was just one of many jobs he had.

Jim was always whistling. Not particularly well. And no tunes I ever recognized. I think they were made up. I could never tell if he was whistling because he was happy, part bird, or because it helped him get through the day. Because let’s face it, if you’re in your 40s working at Taco Bell, no one would blame you for not being in a good mood, and certainly not for whistle abstention. So I sort of psychoanalyzed that Jim whistled to prevent himself from punching customers.

Later on in life I’d find myself in similar circumstances. No, nothing as difficult as Jim’s. But just doing jobs I didn’t love. Trying to get through a hard day. I’d remember my old coworker, though, and so I’d start whistling or humming to myself. The strange thing is, it really helped.

Whether Jim knew it or not, there’s a bunch of science behind all this. Mood can follow action instead of the other way around. I know some of you already know this, and some of you are saying, Well, duh, but maybe some of you don’t, and you need an extra tool in your belt.

So this is for you. Go ahead, give it a try. Try being mad and whistling at the same time. Try holding onto bitterness while you hum a little made up tune.


P.S. Right before I go onstage I’m as scared and nervous as I ever am. You’d think performing over and over would help, but it doesn’t. You know what does help, though? Yep, humming.