The tyranny of choice or why I am too old to watch TV or buy a coffee

When I was growing up in the UK there were three, and then finally four, TV channels. These channels showed what was available to watch and that was that. So no surprise that The Two Ronnies were popular when the alternatives were snooker, the news or a bad game show with a faux-tanned pedophile in an ill-fitting wig.

Oh, the simple days of yore. Now my wife and I sit staring at our enormous TV almost paralyzed with indecision. Not only do we have eleventy-million channels but the same show or film is available from multiple platforms, Sky, Netflix and Amazon. We recently went through a Bruce Willis binge simply because it was a simple choice rather than choosing between shows about space teens or vampire teens or teens in high school or hacker teens. You get the idea.

Choice is not liberation it is tyranny. 

Think about toothpaste or detergent. They all do roughly the same thing but you don’t really care, so you grab the one you recognise as it is not worth wasting brain cycles deciding between Super-Whito with Enamelan ™ or Naturewhite with Kalobe extract (whatever that is). So you grab a name you’ve seen on TV that isn’t the supermarket own brand, as you’re not an animal, and move on with your day.

We went to Caffe Nero this afternoon and we fancied an iced coffee. Last time I went, they did an iced coffee where they poured coffee, milk and ice and a mysterious powder into a blender and thirty seconds later you had a cooling beaker of sub-zero, cavity wall insulation that tasted vaguely of coffee. Oh, how times have changed.

Now they have eleven different iced coffees. Would I like an iced americano or an iced americano frappé or an almond frappé latte or a decaf oat americano frappé? Oh for the love of the Great Zarquan, can’t I just get an iced coffee.

I feel like a latter-day Victor Meldrew, muttering “I don’t believe it” as I am given an increasingly long list of improbable,stupidly-named, millennial nonsense to choose from. 

So what is the solution? I should launch an old fogies decision engine for TV. You won’t be offered stupid genre choices like action, horror or sci-fi but rather choices like not-shouty, funny, educational & ‘pipe and slippers’, a popular genre that includes Antiques Roadshow, Poirot and Fake or Fortune. 

When you walk into Starbucks or Caffe Nero and are over 50 you will be handed a short card with choices like white coffee, frothy coffee or small coffee. Your choices for iced coffee will be hot or cold.

They will also serve Werther’s Originals and Horlicks.

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