Mood Alterations

Okay I admit it: This morning I woke up depressed. (You’re not supposed to say that these days. You’re supposed to just take a pill and shut up about it already). So I decided--quite sensibly, I thought--to go out for a brisk walk in the park. That’s supposed to work, right? Endorphins and Vitamin D and all that? Well, either the winter sun wasn’t strong enough or my gait was too slow; all I know is that after an hour I was still feeling as blue as a bad bruise.

I decided to give it up, go home and get back to sulking; however, being completely out of milk and other staples, I needed to stop off at the grocery store first. Right away I could not seem to extract a cart from the lineup of empties. (Those stacked carts can be like Chinese finger traps). I grunted angrily as mine finally came free of the mass with a loud crashing and banging, and then I looked up to see a very cute, very tall man--a fellow shopper--smiling at me.

“They don’t make it easy, do they?” He had a kind, intelligent face. He was positively twinkling at me. Hello, elusive endorphins!

I made my way to the dairy section. I was suddenly feeling so jaunty I wasn’t paying attention and almost ran smack into a woman who had one hand on a huge cart and the other on a baby stroller. Standing next to her on tip-toe was a 7- or 8-year-old girl. The girl was reaching frantically for the top shelf.

“The whipped one! That’s what I had! That one!”

“Okay, just wait a minute,” said the mom.

I swiveled my cart to one side so that I could retrieve the tub of whipped Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese for the girl. “This one?” I proffered it, smiling at her.

“Yes!! I want that one!” she squealed, grasping it with both hands. Then she frowned. “Wait,…this doesn’t look right.” She looked sad.

I put it back and got another kind. “How about this one? Wait--this is low fat, so you probably don’t want this one, actually.” (Promoting full-fat elevated my mood another notch.)

“Ohhhh!…” said the girl, utterly tortured. “It just doesn’t look the same way….” She was really feeling this, I could tell; it was so very important to her. I pulled down one kind after another--whipped, non-whipped, flavored, low fat, no fat, small, large. And then I started to realize that they all looked wrong to me, too. I wasn’t positive, but it seemed as though Kraft had altered their time-honored packaging by changing the colors slightly. I suggested this to the girl and pointed out that, while the package might look a little different, whipped Philadelphia cream cheese made by Kraft would probably not disappoint. And then, right there in Aisle 6, the three of us proceeded to have a very interesting, cocktail-esque party talk about the grounding nature of traditional products like cream cheese, and the fact that when companies change the look of their products, or an old company goes out of business altogether, the very things we always found comforting can suddenly become anxiety-producing. But that it’s all part of life and shopping in America. Finally the girl settled on the first kind she had picked out. She was not exactly happy, but she was not unhappy either. The mother looked gratefully at me. “Well, we’ll let you get back to your own shopping problems. Thank you so much!”

It was just a random smile from a nice man and a fifteen-minute conversation with a mother and daughter about cream cheese. But like many seemingly-meaningless interactions with strangers, it lifted my day, and made me--well, not exactly happy, but not unhappy either.


  1. Sometimes human contact is just the right antidote. Mingling takes many forms.

  2. I also find people uplifting. It's always good to get out of the apartment.

  3. The mingling possibilities are all around us! And the benefits are real. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I loved this. These fleeting encounters -- whether they're over the dairy section or at a party -- can definitely lift one's spirits.

  5. Connecting with kind people - in person - is such a tonic. It always seems to renew my faith in the real and the now, especially when it involves cream cheese!