Spoilt For Choice
Choice is an odd thing. The modern mantra is that choice is good; choice is the panacea for all ills. Give people a choice and they'll be happy, or, if they're not, it must be their own fault. But actually, in most instances, we only ever want the opportunity to choose when the option we already have or the one we're being offered isn't very good. Just recently I have encountered both extremes of choice and, to no one's surprise, have concluded that like almost everything else in this world, a little is good and a lot is a waste of effort.
Much to my penny-pinching disgust I had to buy a new washing machine. The old one had taken it upon itself to suggest the floor needed a good scrub by pouring its soapy contents over the kitchen lino and after a few days paddling to the fridge becomes an irritation. The dials on the front of the new machine offer four choices of fabric, six choices of temperature, five choices of spin speed and six specialist options (express wash, double shrink, sock loser, that sort of thing). That's a full gamut of 720 different possibilities, which is not only many more items of clothing than I own, but is probably more items of clothing than I've ever owned. Are there really launderers who revel in these options? To me they look like technical showing off and so, like many people, I have settled into a routine of selecting only two options: 'on' and 'off'.
Now, let's consider the other end of the scale. My need for shampoo is dwindling at an alarming rate so it's a rare occasion that I venture into any shop's hair products section, but venture I did last weekend. The ladies' shampoo section is awash with choices, if you'll pardon the pun: shampoos for normal hair, problem hair, flyaway hair (that's a toupee in a high wind, I assume) and even one for troubled hair, which I imagine, glancing at the price, comes with a series of hair-based therapy sessions. And the bottles offer a vast array of added ingredients for the discerning shampooer: seaweed extract, essence of cactus, penguin spit, Moon dust, you know the sort of thing. The men's section, on the other hand, is a much smaller affair, squashed in at the end. A quick glance at the shelves reveals that the discriminating male has two options to consider: large or small. I, for reasons mentioned before, chose the small bottle and read the label. 'Normal Shampoo,' it said, 'with added soap – perfect for men and carpets.' Now, call me picky if you like, but my hair, when I had enough to consider, could never have been described as normal – nonconformist, eccentric or even deviant would have been much closer to the mark. But not having a choice, I bought the bottle anyway and, to be honest with you, it's fine. It's true that there's a lingering smell of Axminster wherever I go, but the lounge carpet has come up a treat.