When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Yogi Berra. (1925-2015)
The other day I went to an office supply store to buy a cordless mouse; they had the Logitech Wireless Mouse on sale. I bounded into the store and asked to be pointed in the direction of the mouse on sale. I was confronted with a rack full of Logitech Wireless Mice; Logitech M310 Wireless Optical, Logitech M510 Wireless Laser, Logitech M525 Wireless, Logitech M187 Wireless Mini Optical, Logitech M185 Wireless, Logitech M320 Wireless and Logitech M325 Wireless. And at least six different colors for each: thirty six wireless mice options to choose from. I asked the sales associate what was the difference between the Logitech M320 Wireless and the 525; he responded with the 525 is bigger but the 320’s advanced optical tracking provides smooth, precise control, on a wide variety of surfaces. So I picked the 325 and I think the color was brilliant rose.
My first visit to the states was in mid February in the mid to late seventies. I landed in San Francisco around ten at night and when the airport shuttle left me at the downtown Greyhound depot I was anxious to find some where to stay. I had no insight as to where I was in San Francisco. I knocked on the window of the Greyhound depot information booth and disturbed the attendant from his football game: I didn’t recognize it as a football game at the time because I was more familiar with Victorian Rules Football, later to become Australian Rules Football. I asked him if he could recommend a place to stay. There was a mumbled response, the sliding window was closed as he turned back to the football game. Outside the depot a fellow Australian I had sat next to on the airport shuttle was just rounding a corner; I hurried up to join her and asked where she was staying. She replied that she had booked a hotel through a travel agent in Australia before leaving: I thought that if I walked with her and when she got to her hotel, I would ask if they had another room: Simple. They didn’t have any rooms. The smiling hotel receptionist said there were several hotels a few blocks down the street but cautioned that we were on the fringe of a neglected area of town. I found a room in a decayed hotel in the neglected area of town.
The next morning and the next day I explored San Francisco and the first thing I discovered was that the neglected area of town was close to the Powell and Market Street Cable Car Turnaround. The second thing I discovered was that you don’t ask to buy a biro at a corner store. After two days in San Francisco I boarded a Greyhound bus for Nebraska.
We stopped early morning at a Denny’s in somewhere in Colorado for breakfast; the stop was 30 minutes. I sat at the counter ready to order something to drink and eat; coffee just appeared. Back then I was more of a tea drinker than coffee so I pretended the coffee wasn’t there. I never really looked at the menu and when asked what I wanted I timidly ordered toast and eggs. And then I was confronted with how would I like my eggs. Somewhat befuddled I replied what do you mean. I was asked how would you like your eggs; fried, scrambled, poached or boiled. Now I’m no stranger to eggs. Every Sunday night nanna and granddad would walk down from Eliza street for the traditional salad tea. The salad was left over cold lamb from the Sunday roast, iceberg lettuce, beetroot, sliced tomato, sliced radish and sliced hard boiled eggs, all smothered with Heinz salad dressing. Mum used to boil a couple of eggs for at least twenty minutes and when they were cold slice them with her prized Bakelite egg slicer.
Mum didn’t make poached eggs often and she had a special egg poaching saucepan that held a tray, that held four shallow cups for eggs. Once the water was boiling she assembled the parts on the stove and timed it so the egg yolks were hard but runny. Mum’s poached eggs were special and no one could poach eggs like mum. We always had mum’s poached eggs on toast.
I have always had a special place for fried eggs when done right. Together with beetroot they make the quintessential aussie burger with the lot; meat, lettuce, egg, bacon, pineapple, cheese, beetroot and sauce. The aussie burger is the crash pad of the fried egg. A fish and chip shop would be rated on the quality of it’s burger with the lot.
With only twenty minutes left before the Greyhound left for Nebraska I quickly answered fried, only to be confronted with “and how would you like them; over easy, over medium, over well, over hard, sunny side up, basted or broken.” I was confused and flustered and couldn’t answer the waitress; I could only think of the fried egg that was crispy on the bottom with the yolk ready to burst and the quintessential aussie burger with the lot at the fish and chip shop in Melbourne Road, Newport.
Choices and more choices. And I didn’t know what any of them were. I was afraid of making the wrong choice. The Greyhound was leaving in fifteen minutes. I was mentally paralyzed by the choices. I panicked; why didn’t they have the fish and chip shop fried egg. No breakfast I muddled back to the waitress. I left the counter and went back to the Greyhound.
I remember my first sit down restaurant meal in Nebraska. I wasn’t used to the salad that just comes with your meal being in a separate bowl and being served before the meal. My salads were the meal: Salads around the kitchen table with nanna, granddad, mum and my brother; left over cold lamb, iceberg lettuce, beetroot, sliced tomato, sliced radish and sliced hard boiled eggs all smothered with Heinz salad dressing. When the waitperson asked and what type of salad dressing would you like I wondered silently why he was asking; salads just come with Heinz salad dressing. I responded with excuse me, hoping to gain some extra mental time to understand what the waitperson was asking me. The waitperson quickly came back with; italian, ranch, thousand island, french, blue cheese, honey mustard, russian, or the house special. Being in Nebraska, known for it’s open range cattle country, I ordered ranch only to be challenged with; original, light, fat free, buttermilk, cucumber, or bacon. I choose original and became mentally bewildered and seized with an anxiety attack.
What if I had made the wrong choice. What if I didn’t like ranch original. Would cucumber fat free have been a better choice. Did Nebraska have ranchers or did they have cow stations like Australia had sheep stations. Now I only order ranch original or blue choice salad dressing before the waitperson even gets to the and what type of salad dressing would you like. Ever since I eliminated having to choose a salad dressing munching on a salad has become worry free.
Burkes department store in Williamstown had sat at the corner of Stevedore Street and Douglas Parade since 1926. It was over the road from Nelson Brothers funeral parlor; where the funeral service for my father was held. Burkes also had a smaller store, by the Newport railway station, in Melbourne Road. Burkes stocked men’s and women’s clothing, haberdasheries, bedding, linens, and window treatments. I seldom wore jeans as a youngster but I think mum would occasionally buy us a pair from Burkes: blue denim straight leg jeans. Shopping for jeans was accomplished by the abrupt request to the sales attendant a pair of jeans please. After answering the what size question you had the jeans. Recently I mulled over whether I should buy a pair of jeans.
In the department store I became disorientated and lost when I was surrounded by blue jeans; there were levi, wrangler, lee, calvin klein, diesel and more. I was surrounded by relaxed fit, regular fit, slim fit, boot cut, straight leg, big and tall, classic fit straight leg, classic fit boot leg, slim fit rigid boot cut, retro relaxed boot, premium performance, stretch, and fire resistant. And then there was stonewashed, vintage, prewashed, medium rinse, antique, trail worn, and sanded black fabric. There was at least one hundred different combinations of styles and treated denim to choose from. I was blanketed by a tremendous wave of fear; my heart was pounding and beating on my chest and it was getting harder to breathe. I was trembling and shaking and I broke out into rivers of sweat. I snatched up a pair of jeans without really looking; they had the same appearance as the jeans from Burkes and were labeled classic fit straight leg rigid indigo. I never wore the jeans. I kept wondering if I could have chosen better. The premium performance had to be called premium for a reason: And I probably would have looked better in the retro relaxed jeans, sitting low on the waist.
My granddad obviously understood choice overload and was so far ahead of Alvin Toffler and Future Shock: I think I now understand why he only took beetroot sandwich’s everyday in his kit bag for all those years he worked at Buncle’s. He refused to be subjugated to the tyranny of small decisions.
But I ponder if choice tasking is the new multitasking.