Friday, August 25, 2006

Internet Shopping and Decision Fatigue

First, you really should check out this Dadaist story I found on my Google home page today: whose link I put above. Home Depot Invasion.


You know you're in the Age of the Internet when you go shopping for a bed online. So we did. It will be shipped to us but I'm not sure how they'll fit it into the P.O. Box. Maybe I should have given them our real address. And what if I don't like the bed? Just paste the easy return sticker on the mattress and leave it at your curb.

Since Kathleen has been slaving away at Safeway's deli, we are approaching the fulfillment of three things we wanted and/or needed: a brake job on the van, a decent bed, and a television. The brakes are now done and the bed ordered. Now I'm shopping for televisions on the net, but it will be a while before we can afford one. Meanwhile I'm confused by the options: Standard-Definition Digital TV, Flat-Tube HDTV, LCD Flat Panel, Plasma Flat Panel, Rear-Projection HD-ILA HDTV, Real Flat Flat-Tube. These choices bring up a favorite psychosocial subject for me: Decision Fatigue or “DF” for short.

It used to be we had Chevy, Ford and Chrysler; white, wheat and French or sourdough bread; paper with no plastic; Converse or Jack Purcell or Keds tennis shoes, and shrink-to-fit Levi 501s only. Diversification promotes niche marketing, which increases your overall field of choosing.

If you want to know what niche you’re in, just note the commercials on the TV shows you watch. Those who watch college basketball are subjected to Mercedes and investment commercials. Those who watch re-runs of All in the Family have to put up with gadgets that do everything for $19.99, come-ons from psychics and the Wonder Bra. But television is democratic despite the demographics. You can live in a trailer and watch Hallmark Theater, and you can live in a mansion and watch Scooby-Doo.

When I practiced medicine I suffered from severe decision fatigue, so the last thing I wanted to hear upon coming home was, “What do you want for dinner?” I just wanted to be fed.

The exponential explosion of choices in retail are enough to drive anyone who doesn't like to shop nutsy-cuckoo. But I have witnessed others with a different mind-set, my daughters for instance, for whom shopping is an adventure and the increase in choices makes for an increase in pleasure. I don’t know if the difference is generational or gender-based. It could be both.

Still, the choice of a television is no small matter; television is one medication most of us use on a regular basis. It’s been shown to alter brain waves to a more peaceful frequency. To be truly clean and sober one ought not to watch it. I say this for any Puritans looking for guidance.

I’ll post a poem below that applies to television drama. Watch out, it might alter your brain waves. Poetry is a medication, too.

Rodent neutral but a little edgy.



One Plot

In the third edition of Scott Meredith's Writing to Sell
I learned there is only one plot.
Somewhere in flames in writer's hell

manuscripts burn because they did not
heed this simple dictum: take a sympathetic hero
to his limits, have him shot

and left for dead on a riverbank in sub-zero
weather in pursuit of some obsessive fate.
Wake him up with soup over Sterno,

revive his fortunes when things most degenerate
and launch him back into the fray
at the last minute the audience can tolerate.

He triumphs, of course, or fails gloriously.
The reader agrees it's all plausible
and the hero lives to fight another day

after licking his wounds for the sequel.
I wish this formula weren't true;
I suppose Napoleon and Jesus do, too.

(published I forget where)


  1. Ah, that's my problem. It's all in the adverb. I've failed, yes. But not gloriously. (smile)

    I was born indecisive so I hear you on decision fatigue. Every little decision wears me out if I pause and really think it out. I'm agonizing, really agonizing over a rather large decision right now--and today's mail may have made the decision for me.

    As for television, it alters the brain waves? Really? I'd heard of music soothing the savage beast and I'd heard about Mary Hart's voice inducing seizures in folks with epilepsy, but this bit about more peaceful brain waves is a new one on me. My friends and family think it strange, but I find it incredibly soothing to be in a room with a tv that's on mute. The tv behind me is on mute right now. I'm not sure why this is. Surely, it's because I love silence and can't stand the blather that comes out of that box but beyond that, I think it's the flicker that the light and images cast on the walls. It's almost like having a fire in the hearth.

    My tv was muted on 9/11. I was on my way out the door to French class, went to hit the remote to turn the tv off and noticed that it seemed a rather large building was on fire. I never did get out the door that day. Class was canceled.

    Gloriously. I must achieve that kind of failure. Then maybe, all of this nothing might mean something, eh? (smile)

    (Did you really order a bed over the internet? Beds are like clothes and shoes in my estimation; they must be tried on first. Aren't you particular about the softness or firmness of your mattress? I bought the cheapest matttress imaginable because I couldn't afford an expensive one, but man, I made sure I laid downr on it first. It was a very baby bear moment--it felt juuuuuuuuuusssssssssst right.)(grin)

  2. Indecisiveness can be a symptom of depression, as if you didn't know. When truly depressed I'd rather be dressed like a girl than half to dress myself. It's so much work.

    As for the bed, I was converted to latex foam years ago so I knew what I wanted and what size; then it became a question of affordability.

    Our last beautiful latex foam mattress was torn up by dogs while my maid held our dog for ransom in Mexico.

  3. I am the opposite about TV. I hate it. I refuse to commit to more than a 30-minute sitcom because I always feel like I should be doing other things. When I lived alone, I didn't have one, but that was short-lived.

    There are so many things on TV (we have satellite) that disturb me, and as melodramatic as this seems, I feel violated when, even if my husband is just flipping through the channels, I am forced to see a fawn ripped to pieces by a lion, or a drunk puking his guts up, or some random bad guy get blown away by gunfire. And all those home-video shows showing people in distress - I hate those so much.

    So yeah. I'm a freak about the television.


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