Spoilt for Choice
April 23, 2014
An older friend of mine has bitten the bullet and bought a tablet in order to be part of the www. She’s not unfamiliar with computing and technology but has so far managed to avoid owning her own “computer”. She uses technology at work and if ever she has needed to hunt something out on the internet, or check her emails, she simply heads down to the library, pays for twenty minutes online and clicks points and presses.
However members of her close family are emigrating and have convinced her that video-chat is the best way for them to keep in touch and so she might as well get connected to the www at home and enjoy the benefits of surfing the net from her comfy armchair with a cup of tea at hand.
Here at Hudson HQ we have had all manner of technology for decades. For his “day job” (which often spills over into evenings and weekends) Lovely Husband needs constant access to the world-wide-web and a super-fast broadband connection. My friend however has no idea about any of the technicalities of her tablet or the peripherals needed to make it “go” and so has been picking the brains of LH to get an idea of what she needs.
Given that my friend has a ten year old mobile phone which she simply uses for calls and basic text messages, she was hoping to keep her home technology equally as simple. LH asked her what she would be using her tablet for and was told “Emails, surfing the internet, maybe setting up a web page (for her craft projects) and Facebook” (having been told by her family that social networking was an absolute essential and that Twitter was a necessity too. LH checked to make sure that she wasn’t planning on some serious on-line gaming or live streaming of videos and was told “absolutely not” so he advised my friend to contact the supplier of her digital television service to connect her with the “starter broadband”.
Given that my friend only subscribed to cable television because the analogue signal was turned off entirely and therefore she has the most basic television package available we figured that asking for the addition of “simple broadband” would not be an issue. LH surfed the net at Hudson HQ, found the package which would be easily enough for her needs and she said she would give them a call to set it all up.
She did give them a call. She relayed all the information about her needs to them. She told them what television package she had, what internet use she needed and that their basic package was ideal. They had given her the ‘hard sell’.
She turned up at our front door late in the evening clutching reams of A4 paper and looking very perplexed. Given that she, by her own admission, is someone who can make a “drama out of absolutely nothing at all” it seems that things had gone from bad to baffling during her discussions about broadband.
She had started the call being entirely happy with the television programmes she received and knowing that her internet use would be minimal. She ended the call with a multitude of options for her viewing and surfing pleasure. She was now trying to decide whether, as she is a Manchester City football fan and quite likes cycling, it would be worth her signing up for a television sports package because for an additional amount per month she could watch the all the matches (not only for the “Sky Blues” but seemingly every football team on the planet” and could turn in and enjoy every single cycling event across the globe. If that didn’t appeal to her and as she enjoys old “classic” films, a movie package was suggested because as she was going to be upgrading to broadband she might as well get anything else that she might want in future at the same time.
It seems that the customer services department had her on the line for over an hour, providing her with option after option after option. Did she want basic television with upgraded broadband connection capabilities or would she prefer basic broadband but use the opportunity to increase her television choices? And what about her phone? As much as she loves her ten-year old mobile, apparently she could sign up for a mobile contract at the same time as getting the broadband and changing her television preferences and they could all tie in together. She could have roaming packages and home data download available. She could get remote WiFi which would mean she could use her tablet to surf the net wherever and whenever she wanted; She could...
Well it seemed there was no end to the possibilities open to her.
After just over sixty minutes of packages, prices and permutations she hit overload and simply hung up on the call. Sixty five minutes after the call started she was sitting in my living room looking completely baffled, feeling utterly bombarded muttering “I only wanted video messages”.
It was as she was talking to LH (who had offered to go back to her house and speak to the Customer Services team on her behalf) that it suddenly occurred to me that what was happening to my friend in terms of technological choices had absolute parallels with what I sometimes feel is happening with my food choices.
In the “old days” (when did I start sounding like my mother?) a takeaway meant fish and chips. It was a regular Friday night treat growing up. Even more of a treat was “having a burger”. This usually happened once every two months after an ice-skating lesson. My parents would take me and Twin to the “Home of The Hamburger” (a brand which I am told is still on the high street but very hard to find) where “take out” was non-existent and we would sit at a table, eating with knives and forks off plates. It was always a treat and very simple and straightforward.
The menu consisted of chips, and a choice from chicken burger, beef burger or a fish to accompany the chips and peas. It was always something we looked forward too, it felt very decadent and grown up and my mum enjoyed having a “day off” from preparing a main meal for which we would sit round our dining room table at home on a daily basis.
Now if I decide I want “takeaway” I have to think my way through all the options. Do I want pizza or a burger...or perhaps a kebab? Maybe I fancy a curry or some Portuguese-style chicken. Or, could it be that a sub-roll with my choice of twenty-three fillings is what I should plump for?
When I am doing my weekly shop, I am “spoilt for choice”. Cheese is a staple of LH’s eating plan (and I have to confess to being particularly partial to cheese on toast the way my mum makes it). ‘Back in the day’ it was a question of choosing from three or four types of cheese and white or brown bed for it to sit on.
Now when I turn into the cheese aisle I am faced with hundreds of different varieties. Soft cheese, hard cheese, mild cheese, mature (or extra mature or vintage), or goats cheese, feta cheese, full-fat cheese, fat-reduced cheese... and instead of picking up a block of “common or garden cheddar of moderate strength and not-too-orange-in-colour, I find myself deliberating about all the options and possibilities…. changing my mind and changing it again, weighing up all the options and eventually wearing myself out from the sheer thought process and simply grabbing the block nearest to hand… before heading down the next aisle and starting the process all over again to choose what variety of sausage would best tickle our taste buds.
And having got my head around the sheer variety on offer, I then have to wrestle the difficult issue of quantity. Do I want medium or large or extra-large?
A pack of six sausages is more than enough for a casserole, but the twelve-pack (or even eighteen-pack) represents much better value... And they will always be in the cupboard in case I have unexpected mouths to feed...
The buy-one-get-one-free means I will have twice as much as I need but it is such a bargain… and I convince myself that just because I have double the quantity I won’t eat it all… I resolve firmly that the “extra portion” will still be in my fridge or cupboard the following week.
And then I have to deal with the issue of “what I need” and what I want. Inevitably it is always useful to have the essentials in stock, namely bread, vegetables, milk, meat and fish-based basics. But I find myself drawing up a shopping list and telling LH that I “need” yoghurt. I don’t “need” yoghurt... I “want” yoghurt. Nor do we ever “need” crisps or biscuits or chocolate bars… but they are on my radar, they are available to me, and all too regularly end up in my shopping basket.
My friend’s struggle to get her head around what is available, what she needs and what she wants in terms of technology had me smiling to myself initially. I couldn’t understand how anyone could get in such a tizzy over something fundamentally so simple. She needed the basics. That was it. End of. Having made that decision all that was required was action on her part to make sure that was what she ended up with. But somewhere in the process the element of choice crept in and ambushed all her resolve. Then I realised... I know how she feels. A tub of ice-cream (based on a popular cream-centred small chocolate egg) did exactly the same to me. Not only did it appear on my radar, and then in my shopping trolley... it had a partner-in-crime in the form of a three-for-two.
Lovely Husband headed out with my friend to speak to the internet provider and get the basics ordered and a date for installation agreed. I took the opportunity to remove the two remaining tubs of ice-cream from my freezer and deliver them to a neighbour who had several grand-children visiting for the weekend. I also gave myself a stern talking to; reminded myself that what I want, want I need and what I can have are three very different possibilities indeed.
I promised myself that however much choice there may be on offer, my weight loss journey will not be “spoilt” by it.
Have a great day.
With a Hug
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