, Newburyport, MA


July 27, 2013

Drowning in a sea of choices


We hear occasionally about frail people dying during a heat wave and are told to check on elderly neighbors and relatives. I suppose if the electricity had failed, I could have slept in my car, the first I’ve owned that has air conditioning.

I wonder how our Founding Fathers had the energy during the hot Philadelphia summer to pursue the right to the pursuit of happiness on our behalf.

I also wonder how much of my current happiness depends upon my Tempur-Pedic mattress and floor fan, not to mention screens and indoor plumbing.

The second thing that bothered me was the realization of how I have become a servant of the consumer society. I stand, paralyzed with indecision, in the cereal aisle of the grocery store, overwhelmed by the variety. In other aisles, I try to compute the coupon price against that week’s sale or the usual unit pricing.

Last week, I needed groceries but forgot to take my little packet, which for years I’ve filled with coupons clipped from the newspaper circulars and sorted into categories. Instead of searching for the brand for which I had a coupon, I just bought what I wanted. Feeling oddly liberated, I ignored the two for the price of one, and the 20 for $10 specials, and just bought what I needed. It was ... amazing. I wonder: Can I do it again?

Then, there are the cards I’ve accumulated from various stores that make me a preferred customer and give me a discount on something or a gift after I’ve spent a certain amount; my wallet is stuffed with them. I often go out of my way to shop at those stores, or respond to a special even if I don’t want it, or would rather try something else. I’ll bet at least half of my excess pounds are the result of such responding, along with television advertising. The craving for a bacon double cheeseburger really doesn’t come from my genes.

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