Saturday, January 10, 2009

Refusing to Choose

From “Choosing Not To Choose,” by T.M. Shine, Washington Post (12.4.08):

Hill Creek Pictures / Getty Images This may be the best idea I've ever had. For two weeks, I relinquished control over my decisions. I turned the reins over to perfect (well, I don't know about perfect) strangers.

Imagine the possibilities. You go shopping for sneakers and ask the person in the next aisle to pick out a pair for you, or you hop in a taxi and ask the driver to take you where he thinks you should go. Start small. At a restaurant, approach the couple eating at the next table -- "I hate to bother you, but I need to know what I want for dessert" -- and work your way up to bigger decisions: "Burial or cremation?"

You can't start smaller than Starbucks. I was bellying up to the barista, perspiring heavily from a bike ride, when I started to ask the woman beside me what I wanted to drink. She cut me off midway through my spiel about how I was asking strangers to make my decisions and social experiment and whatnot ... She didn't need any of that nonsense.

"Just have a water," she said, snatching a bottle from the front case and thrusting it at me.

She herself ordered something that took the barista 11 moves to make, but I was suddenly a model of simplicity: a sweaty man drinking cold water.

Already, my life was beginning to emerge from the fog. Left to stew in my own brew of insecurities, I'd still be tortured over caf, decaf or half-caf. And the encounter didn't seem odd. Thanks to television shows such as "The Office" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," awkwardness is now fashionable. Awkward is the new suave.