Sunday, April 17, 2011


I am pro-choice. Yes I am! I think we should all have the choice to choose where and how we live, and who our friends are. We should be able to make other, more personal, choices as well—such as what we want on our burger, how often we want to bathe, and (unless you are a high school student in an Honors English class) what we want to read. Sometimes, though, I think we have too many choices from which to choose.

A closet full of clothes may seem like a good idea, but I’ve seen too many people spending too much time dithering over the proper outfit. If there were fewer to choose from, perhaps the process would be streamlined and we could actually get somewhere on time for a change!

[note: yes, a bit of a rant on the wife, but let it be known that she isn’t really a clotheshorse, and she doesn’t a have a stultifying number of hangers in the closet, but she does regularly suffer from decision-itis]

By way of comparison, I have one pair of jeans and one pair of shorts. My leg covering choice is a function of (1) how’s the weather and (B) where am I going. Surely this is just as extreme as having too many clothes, but in the battle of “how fast can you get ready” I’ll win every time.

Elsewhere on the choice front, and as mentioned just above, I like to be able to adjust my hamburger from the way it is offered on the menu. When I was a kid I had to wait extra time for my McDonald’s quarter-pounder because it always came with cheese and I didn’t want cheese. They had to make it special, and the pimply-faced clerk seemed put out by my request. But at least they would do it.

Restaurants that don’t allow for substitutions are nothing less than Fascist regimes. Feel free to charge me an extra buck or two if need be, but if I want to exchange the baked potato for some curly fries I should be allowed to! Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us . . . that kind of thing.

But to provide choice to the point that the actual ordering of the food is delayed, then we have crossed the line. There’s a burger joint near our house, one of a small chain actually, that boasts of providing over 312,000 different combinations. Four different kinds of meat and non-meat patties, each of which comes in three different sizes, are topped by one of twelve different cheeses, up to four of thirty different toppings, and one of twenty different sauces.

By the time I’ve waded through all of that information I cannot be expected to pick which of their five different buns I’d like. Just bring me another beer and I’ll drink my misery away.

Choice is good, up to a point. Abundant choice is not good. It gives the feel-good illusion that we are in control, and yet it makes what should be relatively easy decisions ridiculously complex. Choice is supposed to make life better, not worse.

That’s the one thing I like about warehouse superstores. I don’t need a three-quart container of cashews (although they look delicious, don’t they?) nor will I ever seek out a container of laundry detergent that would keep a small apartment building in the suds for twelve calendar months. But I do appreciate the fact that there aren’t eleven different catsups and 43 different kinds of cookies.

I may not need 64 ounces of mustard, but I’d prefer that over an entire row of different mustards. And I can always find a desirable cracker within an available selection of three or four different kinds. I don’t need a forty-foot aisle with five shelves of crackers and cracker-like products.

Yes, even the store must make a choice. If it is going to provide anything that anyone might want, I will have to choose to shop elsewhere. I prefer a smaller store, with fewer patrons inside, and some quick decision-making. No more will I be stuck behind a gaggle of shoppers with their too-full baskets, standing in mindless awe of microwave meals or the vinegars (balsamic and otherwise) or the loaves of bread.

Nope. Just me and my snap decisions. What’s that? I bought the wrong mustard? Heck, it’s not my fault, they only had one kind!

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