When I moved from the Chicago suburbs to a small town outside of Phoenix in 2004, I lived in a brand new house, but the rest of the neighborhood was still being developed. So for about six months I did most of my grocery shopping at a little place at the end of a dirt road cleverly called “Market.” I’d tie my Jeep up at the hitching post and stumble through the free range chickens to roam the four aisles selecting my goods. If I wanted milk, my only choice was 1%. If I wanted bread, my only choice was white. If I wanted wine, my only choice was Mad Dog 20/20. Filling my entire pantry took approximately six minutes – no thinking required.
Fast forward to yesterday, and my non-thinking self has transformed into a deer in headlights staring at the Great Wall of Toilet Paper in Target. The selection rivals that of the cereal aisle. Is it better to get an eight pack of double rolls or a six pack of triple rolls? Is a jumbo roll bigger than a triple roll? Do I want rippled or quilted? Is being dry good enough or do I want to be clean too? I spent a good fifteen minutes calculating my choices then finally snagged something with a happy bear on it – which, incidentally, is the same way I select my cereal.
So after walking out of the store with my twelve-count-double-roll-extra-soft-no-scent Starbucks-esque order of TP, I started to consider what I’d be getting back if I were willing to give up my freedom of choice:
Time: I spend more time selecting a toothbrush than I did purchasing my last car. If I could put those agonizing seconds of bristle density analysis back into my life I’d probably have that convertible I wanted.
Money: I’m the reason brands slap claims like, “now 3% awesomer” on their labels. I will absolutely fork over an extra buck or two for that 3%. I need to walk around knowing that my hair is 3% more shiny and my burger has 3% more real beef and my dishes are 3% cleaner. Do you want to eat off a 3% less clean plate?
Sanity: I refuse to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. Not only because I abhor cheesecake, but because perusing the menu requires the attention span of a Buckingham Palace guard. Take me to In-N-Out any day.
Thinking through everything from cell phones to cuts of beef is like selecting from a Zagat-rated wine list with no sommelier. While freedom of choice is something I support in theory, I sometimes wish I was around to enjoy simpler times – back when you picked the first caveman you met because you might not see another human in an eon or two, or when they only had one variety of M&Ms.
What are your least favorite choices to think through?