The Things that Make you Happy Have, It Turns Out . . .

. . . less to do with the things themselves than
what you think those things are.

Like this little vintage travel trailer, for example. Cute, huh?

I’ve always wanted one up here at the ranch for extra guest housing, but Dave doesn’t want to turn the place into a trailer park.

Stay tuned to see who wins this round.


Anyway, this picture comes from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Rob Baedeker titled King of the Road:The Value of a Vintage Trailer.

I’ve been traveling through the midwest and the south recently, and at night in the hotel room, I’d find myself reading the San Francisco Chronicle for a little taste of home. That’s where the article and the picture caught my eye.

The glory of the internet with its links which lead to more links and so on is that by following them, you can write your own article in a certain way.

In this case, I found myself following the links about happiness — the new psychological studies about what creates it. I followed the links which described maximizers — people who only want the best and who are never happy — and satisficers — people who are pretty much content with their surroundings.

I fight my maximizer tendencies all the time, because it’s true — having what is considered (by others usually) to be the best of everything doesn’t really make you happy.

While all the links on the internet are great, there is one problem. Some of those links evaporate, and sadly that’s the case with the next story.

I’ve searched and searched, but it seems to be gone. I think it comes from a TED talk by Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore College psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

I’ll have to write it from memory instead of linking. Imagine that!

Schwartz — if indeed it was Schwartz — begins by saying that happiness comes not from the thing itself but from what you think the thing is. What makes people happy is weird. For some people, happiness can be found on terrifying roller coasters, by surfing dangerous waves, or in my case, reading dark mystery stories about the seamier side of life. Go figure, right?

And for some people, like the group Barry Schwartz studied, they found happiness is great food and wine. In fact, they were quite the connoisseurs.

For this particular study, ten bottles of wine were opened and the participants ( all maximizers) were asked to rate them. They were given all the information — vintage, price, you name it. To a one, the participants rated the expensive wine, the rare vintages and so on all highly. They were very happy drinking them. These wines were complex with great bouquet, wonderful finishes, you name it. Of course, the lesser priced wines were barely drinkable. That’s maximizers for you. They only want the best.

There was just one problem. Schwartz lied about the content of the bottles. They all contained the same wine. See? Not the thing but what you think it is.

With food it gets kind of scary.

To go with the food, Schwartz served a variety of pates. Since I don’t eat fatty, stuffed goose liver with gherkins (read pickles), I wouldn’t know, but apparently in the food and wine scene it’s thought to be the end all and be all. A grand time was had by the maximizer foodies, drinking the high-priced wine and eating the pate. In fact since everyone had been assured that the pate had been flown in from France, the maximizers thought all the pates were outstanding.

Uh . . . Schwartz lied again. One of the pates was made from cat food. (True story. I swear!)

Not that the maximizers noticed this, mind you! With the parsley and cornichons and whatever plus thinking it came from France, the pate made of turkey niblets made the maximizers just as happy as the fancy stuff from France. Really. Turkey Niblets. Who knew? (BTW What’s a niblet?)

What can I say? Not the thing itself, but what you think it is.

Anyone going to eat pate again out there?

That’s what I thought.

Well, here’s a great recipe for a lower priced champagne drink that will please both maximizers and satisficers, and would also be great for sipping in the lawn chairs in front of your little travel trailer.

A Grownup Pink Lady

Lillet Rouge
Dried rose petals

Fill a champagne flute 1/3 full with Lillet Rouge
Pour champagne to the top
Float a dried rose petal on top


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