Wednesday 3 June 2015

If you've done the dirty deed, it's best to come clean

Father Complex

Fulton Ross

Published 31/08/2014 | 02:30

An off-duty police officer came to the rescue after a car collided with a petrol pump north of New York
An off-duty police officer came to the rescue after a car collided with a petrol pump north of New York

I didn't mean for this to happen. We'd been chugging along quite happily until my moment of madness. Clearly, I'm going to have to come clean. How she'll react is anyone's guess - shout and throw things probably.

I could try and cover it up, but it went too far, I put too much into it. One lie would lead to another and I'd trip over the tangled threads of the falsehood I'd created.

Why had I done it? How could I have been so stupid?

And she'll tell all her friends, make me out to be the biggest spanner in the world.

I'm talking, of course, about filling up my car with the wrong fuel.

"In my defence, I was distracted," I eventually plucked up the courage to tell herself.

"What, did a pretty butterfly happen to flit past your face?"

"Ha! Very funny, but no. Actually I was looking over at the off-licence contemplating the purchase of your favourite Chablis."

She snorted. Like a pig.

"That's very unladylike," I said, grasping for the moral high ground.

"And filling up your diesel car with unleaded is very unmanlike."

"Unmanly," I corrected her.

"An idiot and a pedant," she countered, "what a catch you are."

And so it went… she refused to listen to my argument, the gist of which was that petrol stations contain too many distractions.

Gone are the days you could coast up to the pumps, wind down the window (note wind down, no electric nonsense), ask the acne-ridden teenager in a dirty baseball cap to fill 'er up, hand him the cash and drive away.

My local service station is like Dundrum Town Centre - there's a flower shop, a hotel, the aforementioned off-licence, a health and beauty 'retreat', a Chinese takeaway and a chippie as well as a homewares store, should I fancy stocking up on crockery on my way home from work.

And that's before you even get to the shop where you're supposed to pay for your fuel. In there you'll find a branch of Subway, an ice-cream counter, a post office, rows of newspapers and magazines, a hot drinks station cunningly positioned beside pastries with French-sounding names that were baked in Milton Keynes, toys, fruit... the Dead Sea Scroll, probably.

There's no need. All I want is petrol, no, I mean diesel. See, it gets confusing when you have all this choice. I can't even cope with two options -the green hose and the black one - what possible hope do I, does anyone, have when faced with this cornucopia of… stuff?

Ah, but choice is good, choice is empowering, choice is democratic. We hate being denied the choice; politicians and big business wax lyrical about how their policies will increase the choices on offer, retailers pepper their sales spiels with the word as if it is something intrinsically good, the panacea for all society's ills.

But think about your friends or relatives - how many of them are decisive? I'd wager very few. You've probably experienced, as I have, the frustration of wandering around a town, usually on holiday, totally starving, but somehow unable to decide where to go for a meal. It generally ends in an argument and dinner at a rip-off tourist trap selling calamari the texture of tractor tyres.

We're a race of inveterate ditherers, so why is giving us a plethora of choice beneficial, especially as so many of us like the same things, day in, day out? For example, in my house we have the ritual of the Sunday night Chinese. Without fail we peruse the extensive menu, then order the same as always (sweet and sour chicken Cantonese style for her, Singapore noodles for me, if you must know).

Barack Obama knows where I'm coming from. In the past he's told Vanity Fair he only wears grey or blue suits because he is "trying to pare down decisions".

"I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make," said the president of the free world.

In this drive for sartorial simplicity, Obama is taking a steer from Einstein, who reportedly bought three of the same grey suits so he didn't have to waste brainpower choosing an outfit each morning. Then there's the late Steve Jobs, who was born wearing a turtleneck, jeans and New Balance sneakers and saw no need to ever alter the look.

This name-dropping did not impress my wife, vis-a-vis my fuel blunder. Nor did my contention that choice can be intimidating, stressful and obfuscating.

"Obfuscating!" She did the pig snort thing again.

"Just because you can come away with a big word, doesn't make you any less of an eejit for using the wrong fuel."

Quite, but wouldn't you agree, the pursuit of greater choice is a fundamentally flawed principle, I suggest.

"Luckily for you then," she says, "the only choice you have is to get the bus to work tomorrow. And by the way, where's my bloody Chablis?"

I tell her I didn't get it because her favourite bottle was out of stock and I couldn't make up my mind which one to buy as an alternative.

"There were too many to choose from," I say. Smug? Me? Never.

@FultonLRoss

Irish Independent

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