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Placebos, Stamps, & Joy.

February 19, 2014

Currently I am at The Abbey Coffee Shop in Santa Cruz, listening to NPR, doing homework, and watching this man stamp the to-go coffee cups with the Abbey logo. 

“Amber, that’s really weird/creepy, why are you watching some man stamp cups?” 

Well let me tell you. I have never seen a grown man, or really any grown up for that matter, so excited about a task that to me looks super tedious and somewhat mindless, dare I say boring. But this person is all about it and has developed quite the system.  Take blank stack of cups from bag (stack must be open mouth down), grab new cup, flip right side up, load stamp with ink (use two hands for maximum ink capacity), hold cup at the base, roll stamp on cup, restack newly stamped cup in the “done” pile, repeat for over an hour or until all cups are branded. As I am watching this guy, I can tell, he just LOVES his job.  He occasionally looks around, and delights in meeting someone else’s gaze from across the room. His eyes are wide and his grin is huge. As this whole scene is unfolding, playing in my ears is an NPR episode on the placebo effect. “For a placebo to actually qualify as a placebo it has to be unknown to the taker.”  

The stamping in conjunction with the Placebo talk got me thinking about the things in life that may be placebos, things that merely exist to make people feel good and feel connected. I would venture to guess that there’s things set up all around, in all different areas, which are in place for the sole purpose of creating a space where change is possible. I doubt this guy at the Abbey really knew or even cared that the cup stamping job could’ve been done by some paid employee, what mattered was that he got to join in on the community of coffee shop people, escape from his daily routine, and be a part of a project that made him feel good.

Real life placebos: Presents in various forms, created illusions/tasks to suspend our disbelief and allow us to find joy/purpose in the mundane. To feel a part of something bigger, fill our basic human need to be involved, to contribute to society in a positive way. A happy pill, a cup of juice labeled “homesick juice” to cure homesickness, a job of sorting pencils and erasers, a good book or whatever it may be; they are all things that act as a bridge to help a person become “well”.  Remember that for a placebo to actually work it has to be unknown to the person. With that said, take joy wherever it may come from and make sure to include people who are asking to join in on the grand façade of things. Be well, folks.

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