When I went to Las Vegas in July for a work conference, I found the tap water in my hotel room to be unpalatable. In my post-flight dehydrated state, the desert heat was overwhelmingly parching so I went searching for a cold drink. At Walgreens, I grabbed a bottle of refrigerated water for immediate quenching and picked up a six pack of canned sparkling water that I planned to chill in my room. I hate buying bottled beverages, but I knew it would be unhealthy to naturally limit my water intake out of distaste. At home, I like seltzer water too, so I figured that would be a nice reminder of my normal life and help me feel less homesick. The Walgreens didn’t carry much in the way of sparkling water, but I happened upon a brand I had never heard of called La Croix. I grabbed peach-pear and cran-raspberry and headed back to my room.
When I tried then later, I loved them, so I was excited to find that they were one of the sponsors of Blogfest, the fitness blogging conference I was attending. They generously provided cans of other refreshing flavors like Piña Fraise and mango to the conference attendees. It certainly made hydrating during the sessions more enticing. At the enormous health and fitness expo, they had a gorgeous, visually-appealing display of tall towered stacks of their cans separated by flavor and thus color.
I found myself circling and pacing around the display for 45 minutes, unable to pull myself from its visual patterned allure. My brain is strongly drawn by rhythmic, colorful, and mathematical patterns and the stacks were so evenly constructed in perfectly equivalent numbers. I circled and circled as if I was a carousel horse fixed to a moving platform around the axis of stacks. Each lap in my slow entranced meditative circle was 57 steps, 21 seconds. I unconsciously counted in my head as I mindlessly circled around and around. I struggled to break free after I finally became aware of my tic when the brand representative handing out samples at their display asked me if I was okay. She wasn’t rude, she just seemed concerned. I flushed beet red with embarrassment, suddenly self-conscious that I was wearing a tread pattern track in the berber carpet. I apologized for my pacing and assured her I just loved the display and also the seltzers. She gave me a big cold can of the coconut flavor and then I eyed them—the La Croix tote bags—a simple, natural-colored small tote with pictures of some available flavored cans on one side: three rows, six, six and then seven narrower ones of their more “fancy” flavors, 19 beautiful can decals in an eye-catching, symmetrical design. The simplicity of the geometric pattern mixed with the vibrancy of the diverse colors made for a tote bag design that popped like none I had ever previously seen. Growing up in Amherst, MA, land of the environmentally-conscious, this is not a low hurdle to clear! I needed that bag.
I asked the girl at the booth how much the bags cost and she said they were a free promotional item but they weren’t handing them out yet. I inquired about how and when I could get them and was told that with my business card and ID, that later that day, they’d be available while supplies lasted. I had a class for the conference coming up and didn’t have my business cards with me, so I ran back to my hotel, grabbed a small stack and returned to the conference center. My focus was solely on the bag throughout the entire class, despite the fact that the speaker was animated and the topic was meaningful to me. When she wrapped up her presentation, I scurried down to the expo to get in line for the bag.
Despite the hundreds of booths and meandering people, the display summoned me and reeled me in like a high-powered fishing reel. When I got there, the bags were gone. I went into panic mode, my brain’s obsession desperately needing satiation. This time, a new representative was working and told me the scanner for IDs wasn’t working, so they weren’t yet handing out bags. Part of me was relieved to know I had not missed my chance, yet part was stressed that I would miss it again should the scanner start functioning during my next class. I strongly considered blowing off the session, so I could linger by the booth and secure a bag for myself, but she informed me that the bags would be handed out the next day instead. I tried to placate my frantic mind with that information and head back to my classes with better focus.
When I get obsessed with something, it can be nearly, and sometimes completely, impossible to carry out any other functions or think of anything else besides that obsession. Special interests can be that way: mentally all-consuming, during the day and even while trying to sleep. Last winter, I was obsessed with cataloging my huge rock collection in a detailed spreadsheet. Even at night when I should have been relaxing for bed, my brain would continue to sort rocks mentally captured earlier in the day and carry out Excel processes as if macros had been recorded and encoded and set to run. As hard as I’d try to shift my focus or simply relax and clear my thoughts, my brain would be stuck, ruminating on my special interest as if a bowling ball barreling down the gully, with no hope of bouncing out of that deep groove.
Unfortunately, while in Las Vegas, I contracted a very bad infection in a wound I incurred prior to the trip during a fall. After a couple of trips to urgent care on the Strip and increasing discomfort, the doctor strongly suggested that I should fly home as soon as I felt able, which meant departing the conference a day early. As I debated whether I would heed this advice, one of the strong “cons” for leaving was the lost opportunity to get the tote bag! I was able to permit the sensible part of my brain to overrule my ridiculous autistic fixation, and headed home. However, in the days and weeks following the conference, I was unable to shake my memory of the alluring colorful stacks of cans and the cool tote! I used the store locator function on their website to try and locate the sparkling water in shops in my radius, but it was unavailable near me. I scoured the site for a place to order the bag and even searched eBay, but came up empty-handed.
After a couple of months, the intensity of the obsession waned, but I still couldn’t completely let go of the image of the tote, with its 18 pretty cans so perfectly spaced apart. Sometimes, at night when I was first trying to fall asleep, my brain would conjure up the design and remind me of how it simultaneous comforted and appealed to me.
I decided to contact the company and ask how I could purchase one of the totes and send my kudos about their products. The customer service matched their high-quality seltzers and dazzling displays! They wrote me back and offered to send me a tote. It arrived yesterday and it’s just as fantastic as I remember it. They also included a handwritten note and it came in such a beautiful, fun box that I’m going to keep that too! What’s more is that they now stock one flavor at my local pharmacy! After all their kindness, you can bet I’ll be an avid consumer and supporter of their products!