Sunday, 29 December 2013

Decisions, decisions...

I seem to recall that years ago when faced with having to make a decision about anything, it was all pretty easy. Shall I do this or shall I not? Black or white, no middle-of-the-road dithering about, it was straightforward; cut and dried.
So what's happened?
It's almost as though as the years have passed, so has my ability to make straightforward choices. Everything suddenly has a variety of bells, whistles and twiddly bits attached that all have to be factored into any kind of decision.

There's the big stuff like moving house or buying a car - the sort of thing that's guaranteed to be a complete minefield of side issues and conditions.
For example, twenty years ago buying a car was pretty simple. I'd have a limited amount of money (usually about 500 pounds if I was lucky) so I'd buy whatever came along at that price. Invariably it would be some end-of-life piece of rusty crap that I'd spend every weekend tinkering with to keep it running but at the time that was all part of the fun and it certainly taught me a lot and kept me busy. You don't have time to get bored and be desperately seeking a suitable hobby when you have an old car to maintain.
These days that's changed. Perhaps it's partly that having a bit more money (though not by much) to spend on a car widens the choice, but experience teaches you a few things that you now take into consideration. I love Italian cars because they always put a smile on your face when you drive them - it's like they're alive and talking to you. This fun is only slightly diluted by the absolute certainty that it will at some point go wrong because that's what Italian cars do. French cars have a similar reputation although my own experiences are at odds with the majority's. I had a Peugeot 106 that although it needed a calendar rather than a stopwatch to measure its acceleration was still hilarious to drive and it was only the dreaded metal maggot that sealed its fate. I also had a Renault Laguna diesel that despite having 190,000 miles on the clock, all the electrical gubbins still worked and it was the most comfortable car I've ever had. And it only cost me 200 quid....
The complicated decision I'm faced with now is that due to the ongoing leg situation I need a car with an automatic gearbox because I'm unable to operate a clutch. Being England where autos have never been very popular means that the number of available contenders is immediately slashed to about five percent. Then there's fuel economy to consider because as much as I'd love a 4 litre V8 Jaguar I simply couldn't afford to fund its drinking habit. Imagine doing your weekly shopping if you had Oliver Reed living with you.
Insurance isn't too much of an issue when you're an old fart, but vehicle tax can be crippling so that's a consideration along with parts costs, reliability and so on, not forgetting that however much you come to regard a car as little more than a white good, there are bound to be a few that you wouldn't be seen dead in. Found a brilliant car - cheap to buy and run, immaculate, low tax, low insurance, and only 11,000 miles from new. Unfortunately it was a bright red Hyundai Amica and I'm sorry but I'd rather chew off both my legs and be fitted with those cool carbon fibre blade things that the paralympic runners use, and run to work than drive one of those. Even a Smart would be preferable because at least it's kinda cheeky in a sticking-two-fingers-up-at-the-world sort of way. I also really don't want to have a Vauxhall because I've had them in the past and I just don't like them, and I definitely couldn't have an Audi because no matter how good they are I don't want to be tarred with that particular brush. It would be preferable to have something with character, but not something that attracts attention. It's all so complicated, and it's not just the big stuff that has this effect.

I've said before in one of my early posts (The Agony Of Choice) about the problems of too much choice making it difficult to make decisions and things haven't improved.
Even the task of buying new underpants requires the assistance of a team of crack military strategists to guide you through the incredible array of options. Whatever happened to the days of 'here's a pair of pants, take it or leave it'? It was so easy then. Sometimes we make things difficult for ourselves by choosing to take a more tortuous path. For example, some people would walk into a high street electrical retailer looking for a new stereo, pick out the one that goes best with the curtains and that is that. But when I bought my new hifi system earlier this year I spent weeks researching the current ranges of kit before booking a demo room at a specialist to listen to the components I'd shortlisted. After two hours listening to various combinations of CD player / amplifier / speakers / cables etc, I settled on the winning system and had to wait a couple of days for the parts to be delivered to the shop by the manufacturers before I could collect them and rush home to bask in the glory of a system of the quality I'd been hankering for for so many years. That's my thing though, and many would question the sanity of putting oneself through such a rigmarole, but I'd feel the same about someone wanting to spend countless hours with an effeminate kitchen designer figuring out which cupboard hinges go best with the solid granite worktops.

If you fancied a day out years ago your choice was limited to a day trip to the seaside (if you were lucky), or a picnic in the park with only a frisbee for entertainment. Now the choice of activities for the average person is mindboggling, and the deeper your pockets are the wider still your options become. Want to parachute out of a plane onto a raft descending a stretch of white water that deposits you in a lap-dancing club full of gorgeous 18 year-old Japanese girls who don't know the meaning of the word 'no'? Well somewhere out there is a company that'll organise it for you. If your credit card limit doesn't cover that then at the other end of the spectrum there's always the age-old pass-time of people watching. Just sit yourself by the window of any coffee shop nursing a large Americano and watch the world go by, admiring those who got it right and sniggering at those who got it so very wrong.
It's the boy's 16th birthday in two months, and trying to figure out what to do for him is about as easy as finding a university student with legible handwriting.
There's no end of things to do, but trying to motivate a teenager to be interested in anything at all is the ultimate test of patience, although it does raise an interesting point. If we choose to be content with our lot and not want for anything, then we'll have fewer decisions to make and quite possibly be happier.