Too many choices: bored, too rich or gullible?

Columnist Arthur Black asks how many types of cereal — or water — one needs to be able to make a decision

Nothing is more difficult and thereforemore precious than to be able to decide.— Napoleon Bonaparte

Decisions, decisions. If you ask me, Napoleon had it easy. Consider what would happen if the half-pint general found himself around today in, oh, say the local Safeway or Loblaws. Let’s suppose he has a hankering for some breakfast cereal. Casting his eye over the supermarket offerings, General B. would see:

Apple Cinnamon, Honey Nut, Multi Grain, Whole Grain. Whole Grain/Honey Nut, Chocolate and Regular.

And that would be just the Cheerios shelf.

Care for a Coke, General? You can choose from Classic, Lemon, Cherry, Vanilla, Citra, Raspberry or Coke Orange.

Not to mention Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Coke C2, Coke Life and Coke Lite Sago.

There’s even MexiCoke — Coca Cola that’s imported from Mexico. It’s made with cane sugar instead of the usual corn syrup and it’s reputed to deliver an amplified ‘buzz’.

And if the name Coca Cola offends you, not to worry.  The same company produces and sells Tab, Fanta and Sprite.

No matter what they call it, it’s all just flavoured water. And we spend billions of dollars a year guzzling the stuff.

Are we bored, too rich or just terminally gullible?

Maybe it’s the latter. How else to explain that we now line up to pay for something that the earth gives us for free?

I’m talking about water. We not only line up to buy it, we buy it in plastic bottles which we then toss. Last year, Americans discarded 35 billion plastic water bottles, only a fraction of which were recycled.

If you get your recommended daily eight glasses of water from plastic water bottles it’ll cost you around $1,500 per year.

Or you could get it from the tap or a public fountain for nothing.

Some folks have wised up. San Francisco has banned disposable plastic water bottles. Closer to home, the City of Nanaimo has done the same thing — at least in the city-run recreation centres.

Mind you, in Nanaimo, the results have been mixed. The city had hoped the ban would reduce waste, encourage people to bring their own, reusable bottles — maybe even promote the use of municipal water — you know, the stuff that gurgles out of taps and water fountains 24 hours a day for free.

Turns out people prefer their plastic-bottled water. “It’s kind of ridiculous” says one concession stand owner. “Thirty or 40 times per hockey game, I have to explain to people that we’re not allowed to sell water.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. You can buy Perrier water or raspberry flavoured water but straight H20? Not an option.

There are of course, public drinking fountains in all these facilities, but eeew, who wants to drink from that?

Besides, it’s free, so how good can that be? Bored, too rich or gullible? You decide.

— Arthur Black lives on Saltspring Island. His column appears Tuesday in The NEWS. E-mail: arblack43@shaw.ca.

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