The Laughing Contagion

“This is the story about a woman and a chocolate chip cookie,” she began.

It was probably the happiest anecdote I’ve ever heard. The story was recounted to me from an elderly relative on my spouse’s side, and like many stories that pour from her family, this one was full of laughter. Laughter is properly infectious, passed effortlessly from speaker to listener, and now her humor rests in a part of my mind for loving preservation.

She went driving to pick up her sister on a hot summer’s day. Her car was in terrible shape. You could kick your feet through the floor, and the air conditioner didn’t exist. She was forced to wait in downtown traffic, windows down, perspiring against the omnipresent heat. Then she noticed a friend strolling across the street with an enormous chocolate chip cookie in her hand.

The driver leaned out her window and shouted, “Hey, Dolly! Why don’t you give me a bite of that cookie?”

When the pedestrian turned around, the driver was shocked. That wasn’t Dolly. It wasn’t her friend. It was just a random lady with a random cookie. Time probably stood still at that very moment. Luckily, traffic eventually rolled ahead and she promptly escaped from town.

She made a quick stop at the pharmacy, But when the pharmacist at the counter asked, “Can I help you?”, the woman broke out laughing. It wasn’t a snort or a snicker. It wasn’t a chuckle. It was a bubbling tremor that ran through her body until laughter escaped from her lungs. And when the pharmacist observed her delight, he started to laugh. When the woman behind her in line noticed their joy, she too began to laugh.

To me, it’s the laughter that turns the story into gold. Laughter is a contagion I would gladly contract. We fret over many details in our lives. We wait in line or sit in traffic. But somewhere in our tussled universe, an old woman is breaking into laughter, and everyone around her is following suit.

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