Sunday, February 19, 2012

Choose wisely ... or not

We live in amazing times. Choice has never been more empowering.

Or more daunting.

You have to make a decision. Nothing big, mind you, but eventually you will have to choose between tarter control paste with whitening particles or fluoride-enhanced gel with mouth-freshening agents. You can hardly remember what you bought last time, can you? Was it the toothpaste on sale? Think. Think. Think. It was minty fresh, but was it wintergreenish or pepperminty?
The clock is ticking.

It's imperative you decide soon because eventually you must move on to the cleanser aisle, where you will spend another chunk of time cogitating on whether or not you need a simple liquid dishwashing detergent or a pressed powder brick containing a mysterious red-dot center and sporting fancy dissolving paper wrappers. 

Oh, the questions such decisions demand. Does this Power of Orange scent smell more like real Florida oranges or children's aspirin orange? Will I still need a rinse aid?

Never mind. It's not as if you weren't going to rewash the dishes by hand anyway before you let guests eat off them. … Unless your dishwasher actually works the way the manufacturer claimed it would when you researched all of the options available in such miracles of modern drudgery.

If that's the case, perhaps later you should buy a lottery ticket.

But I don't want to think about the dishwasher of my disappointment. It just leads me along the carpeting of my discontent. I have yet to find a vacuum cleaner that actually sucks past its warrantee. We don't need to go there. Not when I could just as easily ruminate on which of these brooms will work best when the electric floor cleaner gives up for good.

Nor do I wish to turn my attention to the paper products aisle. As if I had a choice. Soon I'll be standing in front of a wall of bath tissue wondering which one will do the least harm to the septic system and still prove economical, because … let's face it … when you have a four-year-old boy living under your roof whole rolls of the stuff gets jettisoned in a single flush.

The choices don't end once you've filled your cart, either. You still have the checkout lane. Which line will move faster? You can't really tell by looking at them.

The lady with two shopping carts and a accordion folder filled with coupons seems, at first blush, to be a risky bet. However, you could get behind the gent with 14 items only to find out that he's writing a check in disappearing ink or paying in pennies.
Never, ever, under any circumstances, bother with the self checker unless you have found enlightenment or are getting only one item.

Ah … one item …

When was the last time I went to the store for one item? And found it?

I'm sure it's happened. It's not as if grocery shopping is rocket science. It's more like a game of Tetris.

What I can't recall is the last time I perused a shelf when my mind didn't momentarily float away on a sea of choices. Body-building formula or smoothing nourishment? Lather, rinse, repeat.

As if she could read my thoughts, a woman standing next to me in the adhesive bandage aisle looked at me and chuckled. “It was so much easier when there was only one or two things to choose from, wasn't it?”

“But that's not really it,” I tell her nostalgically. “It's something more sinister. It's like we have the possibility of perfection if only we make the right decision on which shampoo/cake mix/bandage is best for our lifestyle. The products will still let us down, only we'll fault ourselves for not choosing wisely.”

She laughed again, a little more awkwardly this time, and pushed her cart quickly and determinedly toward cosmetics. For a moment I wished I'd just smiled and nodded. But then the sound that trailed in her wake gave proof she'd gotten the cart with the wonky wheel and I felt sorry for her. I would soon decide on flexible fabric bandages and head for home. There was no telling how many colors of nail polish awaited her in the make-up aisle.

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