Janet Sheridan: Too many options leaves columnist permanently puzzled
March 15, 2018
Despite the look of carefree merriment imparted by her Dutch-boy bangs and Alfred E. Neuman grin, my sister Barbara spent her first-grade year in a state of confusion. Working in the garden with me, she asked why we threw away the pretty weeds and ate the icky onions. Why did the cow have a calf? Why did I take three cookies when Mom said I could have only one? And why should she care if I told Mom she ate five. Everybody knew I lied.
I regret ridiculing Barbara during her period of perplexity because, lately, I, too, have begun to wonder why.
Why do we have appetizers? The dictionary defines appetizers as food or drink served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Never in my life have I needed to eat something in order to want to eat something. Why nibble on olives and cheese-loaded crackers when I could eat more dinner or dessert instead? When appetizers are ordered, I join in the fun; after all, nobody can resist potato skins loaded with sour cream, cheese and bacon. But then, I have to put much of my meal in a box I forget to take with me when I leave. How sensible is that?
Also, when two cars arrive at a four-way stop at approximately the same time, why do the drivers act like Emily Post? First, one uses body language to insist, "After you," and the other responds, with equal emphasis, "No, after you." Finally, one rolls forward and abruptly brakes when the other does the same. This sequence can be repeated two or three times. Is it our wish to be polite or our need to be in control that motivates us to point, wave one another on, then bounce forward and brake? It would be easier to simply obey the law: The first to stop is the first to go. If it's a tie, the car on the right goes first, and a car turning left yields to a car going straight. Were we all to drive like the law-abiding citizens we are, we could eliminate false starts and muttering about morons.
I'm also puzzled when I encounter 10 miles of orange barrels, single-lane traffic and reduced speed limits before I finally creep through a construction site a hundred feet long where one worker operates a backhoe and three supervise.
Why do we need so many options? Even buying cereal becomes a frustrating task when I try to find a box of anything that doesn't list sugar as a major ingredient. As I peruse cereals with frosting or bits of marshmallow, cookies and dried strawberries, I long for the days of Wheaties, cornflakes, puffed rice and fewer damn decisions.
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TV offers too many options, as well. When my siblings and I gathered in front of our 12-inch TV screen encased in a hefty oak cabinet, we had exactly three channels. So we had only three shows to debate. If two of us argued for "The Real McCoys" and two for "Gunsmoke" and the squabbling deteriorated to blows, Mom or Dad made the decision. We watched a lot of Lawrence Welk and his bubble machine.
Now, it takes me longer to choose a show than to watch it. As I wander the maze of 250 options available, my heart palpitates and my left eye twitches. When my mouth becomes so dry I splutter like Daffy Duck, I wish my sister were around to give me a quizzical look and say, "Good grief. Why don't you just read a book?"
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com on the first and 15th of every month.