1/24/10

The Tingle-Mingle

Yesterday I was in a packed subway car, on my way to a party and completely lost in thought, when suddenly I felt something vibrating.  I looked accusingly at the man next to me.  I was--quite against my will of course--tightly wedged against him, leg-to-leg, arm-to-arm. “Why is this man’s leg buzzing against me?” I thought. “What is that?  Who the hell does he think he is?” Then I realized with chagrin that it was me.

“Whoops!” I laughed apologetically, and then squirmed sideways so that I could wriggle my fingers into my coat pocket to retrieve my phone, which was, of course, the culprit.  Fortunately (thank you, god), the man laughed too. 

“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I had it set to vibrate so that it would not bother anyone, but I guess it would have been better if it were set to ring.”

“That’s okay,” he said.  And we proceeded to have a very engaging discussion about cell phones and etiquette, and also about which cell phone companies offered the best coverage in Manhattan (including service underground).  Believe me, when you are on a stuffy, crowded train, this kind of conversational diversion is highly beneficial to one’s equilibrium.

Later that night, at the party, I had forgotten that I had put my phone down on the kitchen table.  Suddenly it began, once again, to vibrate, moving across the table toward the edge.  A woman caught it right before it fell. 

“Oh, thanks,” I said, “My phone was obviously trying to jump.”

“Tell it things aren’t that bad,” laughed the woman. 

“Maybe it felt abandoned by me,”  I said. This led us into a conversation about society’s addiction to email, Facebook and texting--subjects everyone likes to talk about these days.  As a result I met her friends, and later, her friends’ friends.

Who says technology is bad for socializing? All in all, I got good vibrations.

1/17/10

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.