Editor's Comment: July 2018
PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 June 2018
"We take so much for granted these days. And one of those things is quite definitely 'choice'." Our editor Mike Lowe isn't sure all this choice is a good thing - do you agree?
As I write this I can hear my wife shouting at her iPad. The internet has gone down and the inability to watch the Marr programme in the palm of her hand may force her from her comfortable bed. Princess Margaret, whose morning routine notoriously included a two-hour lie-in with the papers, a packet of fags and a vodka cocktail, never had to put up with this.
Similarly denied access to Google and Wikipedia by a power cut while writing an article a few weeks ago, I actually had to take dusty reference books down from the shelves to check facts and spellings instead of tapping into an electronic world of wisdom with just a couple of clicks. (Truth be told, I actually quite enjoyed it.)
We take so much for granted these days. Last night, Cecil the whippet, replete after his dinner, was lying on the couch fast asleep while farting and barking at the same time. I quickly took a short video on my phone which, should I have wished, I could have shared with everyone in the connected world with just a push of a button. (I didn’t.) Not so long ago, to heap similar humiliation on the poor dog, I would have had to find my camera, check it had film in it, and then bang off a few shots. I would have then have had to trudge down to Boots the Chemist to hand over the film only to be told to come back in a few days once it had been developed and printed. And when I got it back, the pictures would be out of focus and would have one of those little stickers on them blaming me for the error. Apart from the photos of the table lamp, my feet and the garden gate that I would have taken “to finish the film off”, that is.
We take so much for granted these days. I remember visiting the USA for the first time in the late Sixties and being overwhelmed by the sheer range and choice when I stepped inside my first proper supermarket. It was quite bewildering to someone whose food shopping had previously been limited to the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer and the corner shop – all on one block of our road – and, of course, the glamour of the local Co-op (Divi Number 43266 since you ask, and don’t forget to stick the Green Shield stamps in the book). Yet last week I was dispatched to Tesco to buy some cook-in-the-bag rice for our other dog, Sydney the lurcher, whose advancing years required a change of diet. It was just one simple kind of rice I needed, yet I was faced with an aisle of no less than 27 different varieties, from pilau to basmati, stopping off at paella and egg-fried in between. Go to their website and you’ll be offered a choice of 139 kinds. Of rice. Rice!
We take so much for granted these days. And one of those things is quite definitely ‘choice’. I am not sure that this is altogether A Good Thing. If I want to buy a 42-inch television, then show me two, maybe three. I can then make a sensible decision based on quality, capability and price. But show me 21 models, as just the Sony website does, and I’m immediately lost in technical turmoil. Show me 7,220,000 search results, as the Amazon site does, then I’m immediately going to give up and go for a lie down. Too much information. Brain overload.
We take so much for granted these days. And I’m not sure that we should any more. All this choice, all these variations, must put an unbearable cost on manufacturers and retailers. With a rather uncertain economic future looming, I think we might be embracing a ‘Less is Best’ attitude rather soon.
Although I must admit that I’m not looking forward to requesting a glass of vino in a restaurant only to be asked: “Certainly, Sir. Would that be the red wine or the white wine?”
For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor