Saturday, January 26, 2008

Aw, capitalism

The spelling in the subject line was intentional. Aw, not ah. Ah would imply wonder and delight. I wrote aw, as in aw, shucks, this is overwhelming. And annoying. And crazy.

Our vacuum is dying. It’s ancient, it has a right, it’s worked soooooo hard in this life that I truly don’t begrudge its threats to leave this world and go on to vacuum afterlife. But I had no idea there were so many replacement options out there. My head is spinning. Bags or not? Upright or canister? Splurge on a Dyson (as if I could) or pick up a cheap Hoover? Designer color or plain old black? Should it have hand-help capabilities?

It’s becoming ridiculous, the amount of choices that exist to us in this country and other places like it. This was painfully evident to me while shopping recently, when I actually read the labels on several bottles of water. Now, first and foremost, the idea of bottled water is really pretty stupid, when you think about it. Bottled water. That’s water, in a plastic bottle. Would you have paid for this 25 years ago? Of course not. You’d have scoffed at it as you poured yourself a drink of water from the faucet or fridge. But now? It’s huuuuuuuge business. You can have plain old water, vitamin-fortified water, mineral-fortified water, fruit-flavored water, lightly carbonated water, fruit-flavored carbonated water… And it’s still water. All of it. It was plucked from the earth somewhere, bottled, and overpriced for your consumption. Is there a chance it was ever in your washing machine in a previous life? Of course. Could that lovely, clear beverage have resided in a mine run-off pool some time ago? Possibly. Might it have been used to drain an open sewer in a developing country a few years back, before it evaporated and fell to the ground amidst mountain grandeur? Why, yes—I wouldn’t say it’s a probability, but it certainly isn’t something you can rule out altogether. All above-ground moisture in our atmosphere is recycled over and over and over. Think about it. Then, save yourself some money. (Brita makes a fine filter for your refrigerator pitcher.)

Back to the main point: What does water have to do with capitalism? With vacuum cleaners? Let’s just say I want to make certain that the vacuum I end up purchasing resembles good but plain water from the faucet. I don’t want to get all caught up in the chase to have the newest and best and most hip; I don’t need a vacuum that looks streamlined and matches my d├ęcor, but isn’t able to suck up the tiny piece of lint next to the baseboard. I need something to pick up crayon wrappers and cat hair. I need a vacuum; that’s all. I wonder if I can even find a basic model nowadays?

We have too many choices, and a lot of them have been created not because they’re better, but because we can be made to believe they are. Thank goodness most of them are either ludicrous or too expensive to consider. Wading through the hundreds upon thousands of options still takes me too long, but thanks to a budget, my starting list is a lot shorter than some people’s.

On a kind-of related subject, those clear water bottles suck up sickening amounts of space in landfills, plus they require petroleum to produce. Let’s all just invest in sturdy, reusable water bottles. Ditto for your daily Starbuck’s or whatever your coffee pleasure—purchase a spill-proof reusable travel mug. Think of the garbage we can eliminate just by taking those small steps! : )


Anonymous said...

Ah, so true. But you're fighting an uphill battle here, my dear. Americans consider CHOICE right up there with Life and liberty!

(I'm with you, however - My BRITA pitcher is filled and THEN I fill my little water bottle.)

Anonymous said...

Vaccuum cleaners are especially hard. We "inherited" my in-laws, a "CR Best Buy" that they hated (and I hate too -- it's relegated to the basement, cleaning up after the cats). I love my Dirt Devil, but a part broke, and when I went to reorder, found they had totally redesigned that model so the part wasn't available. Mike jury-rigged something, but it's only a matter of time before it goes and I'm stuck buying another one. Such a confusing array of choices for such a necessary product.

Mel said...

well, you'll both be pleased to hear that the vacuum situation has been resolved; we are now the proud owners of a second-hand Bissell bagless model, purchased from a nice young fellow who left the country today to move temporarily to Australia. I am loving it--you should see the huge amounts of fuzz and dust I've gotten already. makes me wonder what the old vacuum was doing... making me sneeze?! so I can at least recommend the bagless now, b/c I see how they're great for a borderline OCD like me--then I can clean the catcher every time I use it! {: )