One extra hot, one shot, small, skinny, latte please; there are five decisions to make just to order my favourite coffee. That’s how I like it, add a sachet of sugar and it’s just about perfect. I do have to wonder however if it is a good thing to be able to have so many choices to make over something as simple as a coffee. Especially when I’m in the queue at Costa behind a queue of equally demanding coffee drinkers, whilst the barista is run ragged making up ever more complicated orders. I notice in Starbucks you can now pick which continent you would like your coffee beans to come from. Even I’m not that fussy!!
Growing up there was a choice of black or white coffee. Occasionally, if you were lucky you might be offered a filter or instant but normally it was the latter. I remember it being the height of sophistication to go to Wimpy with my Mum to have a “frothy coffee”.
It seems standard nowadays to be able to personalise pretty much anything…put an address in your sat nav and you might have to choose between the shortest route, the longest, the fastest; do you want to avoid tolls, or maybe you would prefer to totally avoid main roads?
Even posting a letter is complicated; working out the sizes and the difference between signed for, tracked and special delivery requires a diploma at least, maybe even a degree; with honours!
Picking a school for your children had become a trauma beyond most people’s comprehension. It begins with picking childcare, do you get a childminder, send the kids to a playgroup, a Montessori nursery, or a standard nursery. Then you have to pick a school. Do you want a church school, an academy, a voluntary controlled school, a state school, a primary school or an infants school? Perhaps a church school would fit your child (and you) better? It moves on to secondary; sports academy, or science? Grammar or high school?The lists go on and on. Gone are the days when you went to the local school. Nowadays there are so many elements to consider that it makes my head hurt. My poor befuddled brain struggles to make sense of it all and the differences between them.
The same happens when you try to buy a phone, do you want an iPhone, a Samsung, Nokia or a Motorola? Android, IOS 9 or Windows? Which provider? There are so many to choose from.
There used to be 4 TV channels, now we can pick from hundreds. Sometimes the stress of it all means I just switch it off.
Some of the reasons we have so many choices are good; I currently have choice of 5 different bins for my waste: food waste bin, paper recycling, plastics and glass recycle bin, general waste, and garden waste. Whilst being complicated it makes sense that we can’t keep chucking everything into landfill, we need to recycle wherever we can, however it doesn’t help to keep things simple!
Even mundane things have so many choices. I’m pretty sure my washing machine has at least 50 different cycles I can choose from. The result? I use one; the same one each time. I know where I am with that wash!
Do we really need all these choices? Was the world that bad when we went to the local school along with 95% of the kids we grew up with? Or when there was only a choice between watching The Waltons on a Sunday morning or going outside to play?
Is it any wonder then that so many of us are stressed and anxious all of the time? Under pressure to constantly make a choice, the right choice, often without fully understanding all of the options we are choosing between (especially in the case of phones, or is that just me)?
Is the world that much better because I can choose between 120 different ways to make my coffee? We live in a world full of people living constantly in the angst of maybe making a bad choice, the wrong decision, getting it wrong. Whilst it might seem a small thing to pick out a coffee, when you add up all those small decisions that we make everyday it starts to get mind blowing. It’s hard enough to make big decisions let along to constantly have to make choices about what, in the grand scheme of things are relatively trivial.
Just because we can have so many options available to us doesn’t mean we should always consider offering them.
Still it’s nice to know that those other 49 wash cycles are there if I need them…