Circa 1997 Sense and Nonsense

It is a strange world that we live in at the present time, especially for those like me who have survived the era of one-channel television (and even that was blurry!) as well as the Volkswagen beetle in winter–before they came equipped with heaters that actually worked.

Back then the choices were few. The main factor to consider when making a purchase was “Can we afford it?” The correct reply to that was usually “no” but that was often ignored, perhaps because such frightening phrases as the bottom-line, high interest rates, and inflation had yet to be invented.

These days the choices for acquiring anything at all, even everyday insignificant items, are manifold. Whenever a typical housewife (or house husband) ventures from his/her home and into the business area of town, a carefully composed list of necessaries clutched in hand, the usual first stop is the post office.

Perhaps there will be a letter from a daughter or a son? But no, these days they are into e-mailing across the world to strangers in Ecuador or New Guinea, sometimes twice a day. Mother and Dad reside downstream on the same river but they do not receive even as much as a message in a bottle!

Oh well, there is plenty of mail in the post office box. No cheques though… These are deposited automatically in the bank without benefit of having been touched, caressed, or even endorsed, by the one whose name appears upon them. But the envelopes with bills in them stand up crisp and erect amongst the stack of junk mail.

Actually the bills themselves are junk mail. The phone bill contains deals on telephones which do everything but wash the dishes. Bank statements include advertisements for RRSPs and life insurance. Cable T.V. is offering yet another tier of channels. All within the same envelopes as last month’s invoices. You can’t just fling them into the post office trash barrel which is already overflowing at half-past-nine in the morning.

So many choices these days! The consumer’s shopping list probably begins with a trip to the drugstore. Sometimes it ends there too. Our pharmacy has so much food on its shelves that I can sometimes skip my daily excursion to the grocery store. On the other hand, the prices on those generic brands of personal care products at the grocers are tempting…

“Personal care products” is a modern day term that describes what used to be soap, shampoo and women’s (shh) “stuff”. Nowadays the value of each of these requires the assistance of a Philadelphia lawyer, a dermatologist and a cosmetician to help you choose between the rows and rows of similar products.

Plain old ordinary shampoo now comes in 20 different selections, each color-coded and numbered according to hair and scalp conditions; whether your hair be permed-dyed-thick-thin-dry-oily-sensitive-young-old or various combinations thereof. There are also “natural” shampoos that contain fruits, vegetables and/or egg white. Hair conditioners, gels, mousses and sprays are similarly graded.

Moving down the aisle toward soaps, lotions and feminine hygiene, one encounters similar or greater dilemmas when it comes to making choices.I have heard horror stories of women locked in agonies of indecision over whether to purchase a #19 Salon Selections shampoo; an Oil of Olay moisturizing body wash that may or may not contain a chemical beginning with the letter “d” that can be harmful to white mice; a box of Kotex with wings, or any one of umpteen different alternatives.

Men, with their purported left-brained agility perhaps do not have a problem with decision-making? Selections of personal care products for them seem to be far less complicated anyway. The only important thing for them to remember is that disposable razors come in pink for gals, and blue for guys. But I do have a problem with a talc that is being advertised (constantly) on television for male itch. In this day and age of equality, where is the feminine equivalent?  There are also similar products advertised to combat foot itch, and winter itch. What if your elbow itches in springtime? Oh well at least there is no gender bias there.

Purchasing personal care products for animals is becoming confusing. I have heard there is a now a shampoo that has been specially formulated for both people and their dogs. (It better be cheap. My dog is extremely hairy!) Last winter I went shopping for some Kitty Litter. We do not have a cat, but I thought I would sprinkle it on our icy walkway to provide traction underfoot. But cat hygiene in the nineties has been upgraded. The stuff now comes in three choices: clumping (whatever that means?); deodorized and non-deodorized. Making the decision was too much for me and I left the store empty-handed.


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