On a Saturday morning earlier this month, Rotary Club of Trail members gathered for their annual clean of Highway 22 north of Tadanac.
Arriving for our pre-campaign breakfast, I was pleased to see our eldest member in attendance. Marc Marcolin, a former Trail mayor and Cominco executive, could easily just put his feet up and rest on his past accomplishments, or even his age.
But, at 93, Marcolin still wants to contribute to his community and share in the fellowship of the club.
He takes a keen interest in Rotary affairs and recently was part of a special committee looking into how to staunch the club’s decline.
As I stood in line behind him waiting to order, I was thinking about how we don’t produce enough Marc Marcolins anymore when I was diverted by another modern reality – an abundance of choice, which at times can be overwhelming.
Marc ordered one of the egg-and-other-stuff options and wanted some minor variation, which set off a flurry of questions and button pushing from the server. Since, like some other aging Rotarians, myself included, he doesn’t hear as well as he once did, this proved problematic.
“Do you want to make that into a full breakfast?’
“Do you want white, brown or multigrain toast?”
“What was that?”
“Do you want regular or decaf?” “In a mug or paper cup?” “Do you want room for cream?”
Do you want your eggs on the side, on the floor or out the door? It went on like this for what seemed like five minutes until I practically shouted at the attending supervisor (I am never at my best when my blood sugar is low, and my best isn’t that great anyway.) “just give the guy his breakfast before we all die of hunger!”
Head into a modern supermarket or other large retail outlet and it gets even more bizarre. One side of entire supermarket isles are devoted to products such as potato chips and their variations or soda pop and juices, while tea and coffee can take most of an other isle.
And our local stores are small in comparison to their big city cousins. I once stumbled into the men’s sock department at Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan and was stunned to see an expanse of grey, black, and argyle the size of a hockey rink.
While choice is the basis of a free market and society, and most people prefer options to no choice, sometimes it can all be exhausting.
Research cited in the Economist found that when supermarket shoppers were offered half a dozen tasting samples and a discount coupon they were 10 times as likely to buy one of the products as those offered two dozen tasting choices and the same coupon.
Interestingly more people stopped at the bigger sampling displays but were far less motivated to buy, which may explain the hordes or glassy-eyed consumers wandering big-city malls on the weekends, few of whom seem to be packing much in the way of parcels.
This volume of choice often leads to me dreading the thought of buying another product or service.
The variations are endless and chances are the brand or style you purchased last time, which seemed just right or at least was perfectly acceptable, is no longer available.
According to the Economist, the implications of all of this are addressed in a book called “The Paradox of Choice.”
But with the volume of books published these days, the periodicals piling up on the mail table, not to mention the endless array of television channels and new movies not worth watching, getting it is a doubtful proposition.
NOTES FROM ROUTE 22
After finally getting our morning nourishment, we headed out for our fall clean-up of the highway.
There were a lot fewer paper cups and other disposable beverage containers this time out. Tins for “energy drinks” are displacing them.
The tiny cans that come at big prices for God knows what must not work very well.
Apparently, after drinking one, their youthful enthusiasts don’t even have the zest required to return the container for a refund, or at least put in the trash rather than tossing it out their car windows.