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Freedom of Choice

 article about Freedom of Choice

This article belongs to Heads or Tales column.


As Americans we love to do everything to excess.

We invented Las Vegas, the Hummer and DD breast implants. We invented fast food with the idea that you could grab a quick bite when you were pressed for time.

But that wasn't enough. We had to super-size the hamburger and create a Whopper.

And then, when that wasn't enough, Kentucky Fried Chicken announced that they would take everything they made and just throw it in a giant bowl for you. Chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, cheese and just a little bit of plastic that they pulled out of the recycling bin to top it off.

That wasn't enough, so about a month later KFC came out with an added bonus: the KFC bowl now includes a biscuit.

I hear next month Taco Bell is coming out with the Taco Bell Trough. It's a long styrofoam trench that you can hook to the window of your car that you and your whole family can just stick your heads in and gorge on meat, cheese and refried beans.

Every one loves freedom of choice but there's a fine line between freedom of choice and sensory overload. We passed that line about 10 years ago when every personal hygiene item got its own aisle in the drug store. There are 150 flavors and scents of everything from shampoo to toothpaste to feminine hygiene products.

Can we all agree that we don't need 75 different scents of each brand of deodorant? We've got scents like Cool Breeze, Arctic Blast, Mountain Air, Icy Wave and Surf. You're not describing a personal hygiene aisle; you're rattling off the consequences of global warming.

I shouldn't have to do interval training in order to have enough stamina to get from the Right Guard at one end of the aisle to the Axe Body Spray that's 26.3 miles away at the end of the row.

The choices of which underarm product to use should be limited to one section of shelves that is about the size of a small book case. Picking out a deodorant shouldn't be more complicated than gene splicing. There should be scented or unscented and then a choice of Right Guard, Old Spice or Arrid Extra Dry. End of story.

Why? Because I still have to navigate the potato chip aisle.

Leave it to marketing people to screw up one of the world's simplest snack foods slivers of fried potatoes with salt. By the time I differentiate between baked and fried and between plain, ridged or stacked in a can; I shouldn't have to take a multiple choice test to decide if I want the taste of barbecue, mesquite, jalapeno and cheese, chipotle and lime or bacon and crystal meth. It's a snack food. It's not a wine tasting. Most of the time when you're eating them you're either so wasted or so distracted that you could put salt on a Post-It note and you wouldn't notice the difference until your lips stuck together.

And you're still not out of the store yet. You still have to decide between paper or plastic, cash, credit or debit or whether you want to get in the checkout line staffed by the emo chick or the white dude with dreadlocks.

And one last note for the old guy in the express check-out line who is always ahead of me: CARRY SOME GODDAMN CASH!

You're not impressing me with your credit score when you buy a pack of gum and a newspaper with your Visa card.

Here's my idea for the next MasterCard commercial:   Pack of Dentyne Ice: $1.25. New York Times newspaper: $0.50.   Me whacking you upside the head with the plastic divider used to separate groceries: Priceless.



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