Janet Sheridan: But wait, there’s more
My pretty friend Linda tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and said, “There are too many options; I can’t make myself commit.” She wasn’t talking about choosing an ideal mate, finding her dream home or planning the perfect vacation. She was buying a vacuum. And I understood her frustration.
When my old vacuum coughed up a dust ball and died, I didn’t buy a new one because I didn’t know which model to choose: an upright, canister, stick, handheld or some combination thereof. Eventually, tired of being indecisive, I settled on a lightweight stick vacuum that even older ladies who’ve trotted too much trail could easily carry up the stairs and back down again without getting dizzy.
But this first decision spawned a gazillion more: Did I want a corded or cordless vacuum? Should it be bagged or be bagless? Did I need a vacuum guaranteed to suck up pet hair? Was a washable filter important to me? Which of the sometimes-alarming colors available would fit my decor? And what was I willing to pay for the contraption once I made up my reeling mind?
I dithered about vacuum choices until I grew so old I forgot I wanted one. I haven’t had that much trouble with a decision since I anguished over which boy to invite to the high school Sadie Hawkins dance and ended up not going.
Shopping online increases my anxiety because I can visit innumerable sites and consider more options. Then, when I finally think I know what I want, I discover I forgot to bookmark the site where I found it; it’s lost in cyberspace; and I don’t have the patience to try to find it again. Also, I’m reluctant to buy a product I haven’t touched, tried on, examined from all sides and judged with my own eyes; too often a jacket is a nice apple green online, but upon arrival, resembles slimed moss.
Even dining in a restaurant has turned into a lengthy, frustrating ordeal of choosing. After a waiter and I discuss what I’ll have to drink, the day’s specials, whether I want an appetizer, what entrée I’d prefer, how I’d like it prepared, which sides would please me, what dressing I want and whether I saved room for dessert, I feel we have a close relationship and I should help him through college.
But in our world of too many choices, only the decisions involved when buying technology set my hair on fire. To compare the turmoil of buying a computer to buying a vacuum or ordering a meal is like comparing Mt. Everest to a couple of anthills. With technology, the decisions are many; their consequences are dire; and my learning curve is a straight line that ascends heavenward.
Beyond “I want a usable keyboard, a readable screen and the capacity to save lots of stuff,” I don’t know what I need; and I can’t begin to comprehend the many options that earnest and youthful employees throw at me like speed talkers on methamphetamines. “CPU,” they say, then move on to gigabytes and gigahertz without pausing to breathe. They murmur, “Networking capability,” and wax poetic about device ports, graphics cards and optical devices. When they begin to rhapsodize about the iCloud, my sanity collapses.
Once I’ve managed to purchase technology, the slightest change from what I’m used to tips me into frenzy, “It doesn’t work the way my old one did. I don’t get it. I liked it better the old way. Do they really think this is an improvement? What the hell is it doing now?”
Technology surrounds me, and soon I’ll drown. Once I had a computer; and I was happy. Now Joel has a computer; I have a laptop; we both have smart phones; I have an eReader; I need three remote controls to operate our TV and another to control a battery-lit candle. And I am unhinged.
But I did buy a new vacuum. I waited until my friend Linda made a commitment, then bought the same machine.
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 http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every month.
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