Sharron giggled as I reached towards the deodorant on the shelf.
"Swagger?" she asked, a hint of mocking in her voice.
"I know," I said. I thought the name was ridiculous too, but it was the only scent left on the shelf, where normally there were dozens to choose from. On any other day, I would have had my pick from names like "Tropical Breeze Off an Island Where Dolphins Play in the Sun While You Drink Margaritas," "Well-toned Athlete Who Has Just Showered After a Vigorous Workout Listening to Trance Music," or "Delightful Fragrance of a Mysterious Stranger Who Has Just Returned from a Trip Exploring the Spicy and Scintillating Street Bazaars of the World."
We had come a long way since I was a child when the choices were "Men's" or "Women's." But today, the selection was just as meager as it had been way back then, and all I was left with was "Swagger."
I removed the cap and gave the deodorant a sniff. "Smells like 'Arrogant Jock' to me."
Sharron chimed in. "It's a shame they don't have 'Pimp Daddy.' That's my favorite."
Reluctantly placing the deodorant into the cart, I continued to ruminate on the idea. "You know what I would really like? A deodorant called 'Funny Guy with a Diversity of Interests and Who Also Happens to Smell Good.'"
"Why that would suit you just perfectly," Sharron agreed.
We pushed the cart around the corner and into the aisle where the mustard was. Again, when I was a kid, there were only two choices: French's or "Don't Put Any Mustard on What You're Eating."
Today, of course, there are billions of varieties of mustard to choose from. You can get anything from "extra spicy" to mustard that tastes so much like ketchup that you don't need ketchup.
Almost every aisle of the grocery store now presents such an overwhelming array of variables, that when Sharron asked me to go pick up some bread, I said, "I don't know how."
This turned out to be true. A few minutes later, Sharron found me, just standing there, dazed, staring at the many loaves in front of me. My hands had fallen limply to my side. My pupils were dilated. Except for the little burbling sound coming from my mouth, I had nothing to say.
Sharron grabbed a bag of "Marcy's Famous Vitamin D Three-Grain Loaf, Low-fat" and pulled me by the hand. "Come along," she said. The rest of my buying decisions in the store were made for me.
My mind wandered as we walked up and down the aisles. How it had gotten so out of hand? I thought. I wondered if 31 Flavors Ice Cream was responsible for our current dilemma. They were one of the first commercial ventures to offer a plethora of options and to brag about it. Even then, I was resistant. I stuck to my guns and only ate chocolate chip, mint n' chip, sherbet, orange sherbet, rocky road, and vanilla almond peppermint swirl with caramel and chopped peanuts. But other than that, I refused any other varieties. Except for the salad flavor ice cream. I forgot to mention that one. It comes with different sprinkles like Ranch and Italian. My favorite is the Thousand Island with Croutons.
I broke out of my reverie as we made our way out to the car. Seeing that I had apparently recovered from decisionitis, Sharron asked me one more question, "Where do you want to eat?"
I knew the answer immediately. There was only one place to go—the place where the menu has been forever free of uncomplicated and unnecessary choices: In N' Out Burger. In N' Out is a glowing example, from days gone by, of how things should be. Their menu is a magnificent example of simplicity, and the management of In N' Out has striven to keep it that way. One of their biggest internal corporate debates over the years was whether or not to add Dr. Pepper to the menu. (True fact.) Of course, there's the "secret" menu through which you can order your own variations such as the "animal" or my wife's favorite, "the grilled cheese," but these choices are not foisted upon us. There's no super-sizing, no breakfast menu that you're forced to eat from just because it's early morning, no barrage of questions that make you feel as if you have to enter the "Double Jeopardy" round just to get your meal.
Driving home with the smell of melted cheese and fresh cut fries in the air, Sharron turned on Sirius Radio. "What would you like to listen to?" she asked.
"I can't answer that question; my mouth is full," I answered. Actually, I said, "Mmmbffth tha qbbbthh, mmbbl," but she understood what I was trying to say. Magically, from the thousands of alternatives available, she managed to find the perfect station.
"Gffd jlb," I said. And I meant it. When I picked her, I made the right choice.