Day 18 of the Nowhere To be Project was spent at one of my favorite local haunts here in Vail, Pepi’s. Every afternoon they offer live music for the après ski crowd. I’ve been going there for over 40 years and am never disappointed by the music or the crowd. As usual, we were drinking wine, enjoying the tunes and most importantly, people watching. Vail attracts visitors from all around the world, so you never know who you might run into at Pepi’s.
On this day, I wasn’t paying much attention to who was there because I was too taken by the way the music was impacting the crowd. There were the usual rabble-rousers who hooped and hollered at most any ditty, along with those who went about their business using the music as a soundtrack for their social networking. Set apart from these two groups were the feelers, those with a demonstrable connection to the music. Using a very lax measure of naturalistic observation, I determined that about one out of seven people in the bar appeared to be a feeler. The changes in their faces and body language in response to each of the ballads, the nostalgic jams and even the classic bar tunes were hard to miss.
While we may think that most people are in control of their emotional responses, science tells us that differences in genetic codes may be the determining factors. More specifically, those with shorter alleles tend to feel emotions more intensely. The shorter allele crowd might laugh a little louder, cry a bit more or respond to perceived injustices with more fervor than someone with longer alleles. I’m guessing that my alleles are on the shorter end. For example, when I saw the film ‘Free Willy’ in the 90’s I became so depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch for two weeks. The only thing that resolved the spell was a lifetime ban on corporations that profit from animals held in captivity (e.g. circuses, Sea World and so on). Some label people like me as bleeding hearts or even drama queens. On the flip side, those who experience feelings and emotion less intensely might be unfairly called cold, uncaring or distant. No matter where you fall on the feeling spectrum, your genes might be the scapegoat. So the next time you tear up at a dog food commercial or sob on the Hallmark aisle at the supermarket, go easy on yourself and blame the alleles!