“Why should I pay taxes so someone else can …” complained a friend the other day as we climbed into his Lexus to drive to a restaurant.

Lots of people I know complain about their taxes and vote for political candidates who promise tax reductions. Not me. I figure I’m paid a standard of living, not a salary, and if the tax rate changes I’ll still be paid the same standard of living.

We certainly won’t keep any tax cut. The people who figure such things will figure the cost of living increased less. Companies peg raises to the cost of living, more or less, so lower taxes will end up meaning lower raises.

I’m paid a standard of living.

So is everyone else I know, and most of them, like me, are paid a very nice standard of living at that.

Different friend, different conversation … “How come nobody ever does anything for us white guys? Everyone else gets special treatment — when is it our turn?” We were walking through his office at the time, and all of the other white guys there … everyone, that is … agreed with him.

Why is everyone so crabby?

I received an e-mail.

“Open Excel,” it said. “Go to cell L15. Press your left nostril with your right forefinger. Select the next four cells, press F9, and right-click your mouse three times while saying, ‘There’s no place like home,’ into your PC’s microphone. A version of Flight Simulator will open up and as you fly around you’ll see the names of the programming team inscribed on monoliths hidden in the landscape.”

I told a friend about it.

“I wonder how much that added to the price of Microsoft Office,” he crabbed.

Gimmicks like this are called Easter Eggs. I like Easter Eggs. They’re small, pleasant surprises, hidden deep in the details just waiting to pop out when I least expect them, just to give me a smile.

Elliott Porter, the painter, had an eye for Easter Eggs. Look at his photographs sometime. Visiting the same, ordinary places you and I go every day, Porter saw (and to our good fortune photographed) the delightful surprises hidden in the details of the everyday.

Easter Eggs.

Don’t get me wrong. Crabbiness can be a positive force in the universe. It’s the grain of sand in an oyster, for example, that causes pearls to form (never mind my juxtaposition of crustaceans and mollusks into a single, tortured metaphor). It’s our desire to smooth out the little irritants of life that causes us to innovate and improve things that really are, to any objective observer, good enough.

We rented A Night at the Opera a few weeks ago. It was time for my kids to meet the Marx Brothers, despite (OK, because of) the political incorrectness of Groucho’s cigar, Chico’s Italian, and Harpo’s inveterate woman-chasing. We howled as the Brothers Marx destroyed both the opera and the bad guys (“bad guys” meaning “pompous, self-important windbags”).

Kimberly, my 11-year-old, had to give a biographical presentation the following week at school, so we went on the Web and downloaded a bunch of information about Groucho’s life, several dozen quips, and the lyrics to “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” which, I’m proud to say, Kimberly, Groucho glasses and all, sang for her class during the presentation.

(When heckled by an 11-year-old male classmate she responded, “You’ve got the brain of a 4-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.”)

The Web is filled with Easter Eggs.

Meanwhile Erin, my Harpo-haired 8-year-old, practices Harpo’s “leg move.” She’s a bundle of Easter Eggs, too, although she’s far from mastered Harpo’s trick of never talking. Far, far from it.

The joy in life is in the details. Talk to people who nearly died but didn’t. They enjoy life more than the rest of us. Ask and they’ll tell you about the joy of a deep breath, of a warm day, and of a cold beer. They also see the Easter Eggs.

This holiday season, take a moment to realize that you don’t have to get cancer or have a heart attack to enjoy a deep breath of fresh air. You’re allowed to enjoy the Easter Eggs around you, too.