Once when I was a little girl, Mom sent me to the neighborhood IGA grocery store to pick up two items that she needed to make dinner – a head of lettuce and a can of corn. I was probably around 10 years old.
So I got on my blue bicycle with the fat wheels and the wire basket hanging from the handle bars and pedaled over to the IGA store. It only took about three minutes to get there. And it was a fun ride because I rode through East Park with its curvy streets and scarce traffic. I could ride like the wind.
I returned maybe 15 minutes later with the groceries and her change and handed her the bag containing the two things I had purchased – a head of cabbage and a can of hominy. And trust me when I say I had no idea what hominy was or how it would be used. Frankly, I still don’t.
Oy vey, she must have thought (or would have had she been Jewish instead of Catholic; maybe instead she said “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph”). I don’t remember if she sent me back again. I suspect she did.
It’s funny that I remember that incident so clearly. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but it came back to me the other day at the grocery store, because I noticed – and not for the first time – just how many choices of things there are these days.
For example, there used to be potato chips. Then there were barbecue chips. Pretty soon there was sour cream and onion (a flavor I can scarce resist to this day). Now there are innumerable flavors from jalapeno to honey Dijon. For the record, while most of my grandchildren will happily eat any kind of potato chip, Kaiya has made it clear that she will only eat the chips from the yellow bag and with no ripples. That would be plain Lays Potato Chips for you potato chip neophytes. Who knew a 6-year-old could be a potato chip connoisseur?
The same is true of soft drinks. I am astounded by just how many choices I have these days. That’s true not just at the grocery store, but also at any restaurant that has those new fancy-dancy red pop machines that give you nearly infinite choices. Do I want 7-Up or Fanta Orange or ginger ale? If I choose 7-Up, do I want to add lemon, lime, cherry, black cherry, or raspberry? Do I want regular, diet, or the new “10” that I don’t quite understand? It seriously takes me 10 minutes to serve myself a glass of soda. And I’m not the only one. There are literally lines of folks facing the same dilemma as me. It used to be so easy.
What brought this to my attention specifically the other day was my search for a razor. I naively walked up to the area where the implements hung, and was struck by my choices. Once I settled upon Venus (from the plethora of available choices), I had to decide whether or not I wanted to pay extra to have shaving cream automatically squirted onto my legs from the blades, for a considerable extra cost. Once I decided I could soap up my legs myself, then I had to choose whether I wanted regular or tropical-scented. I liked the colors of the tropical scented razors, but was indelibly struck by the statement on the packaging that the razors had “tropical-scented handles.”
I don’t know what to make of this. It simply flummoxes me. Will I really be smelling the handle of my razor? But I imagine the company that makes Venus Razors has done market research indicating that having a tropical smelling handle will make consumers more likely to choose their brand than the brand with a handle that smells like, I don’t know, plastic.
It was easier in the days of small grocery stores with limited options. During our trip to Nebraska last summer, Bec and I stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the very, very small town of Paxton, Nebraska. Across from the restaurant was a grocery store – I presume the only one in town. I was very curious, so we walked into the store. From what we could tell, the grocery store sold everything a family needs, but offered limited choices. It would make shopping so much easier.
Still, it remains to be seen whether or not that tropical smell on the handles of my razors – likely not available at the Paxton grocery store – makes shaving that much more pleasant. I may start shaving twice a day!
If I was a betting woman, my bet would be no.