By Jim Hagarty
I am not a big believer in the good old days. I remember childhood diseases that claimed lives, family violence that was tolerated, horrific car and farm accidents and drinking and driving, and how women were second class citizens.
But I will admit that life 50 years ago was somewhat simpler. I was raised on a farm and our choices were not unlimited. Once a week, my mother would drive the five miles into town to the fancy new self-serve grocery store where she bought all the provisions that were needed to keep seven kids and two parents alive for seven more days. There was also a country general store a couple of miles away for emergencies.
Today, my family and I live in a small Canadian city of 35,000 souls. We have a number of lively grocery stores as well as department stores and drug stores that sell groceries. So up and down the streets we drive, going from store to store, and picking up the specials available in each one. One department store has the best price on orange juice and peanut butter as well as some cookies so I go there frequently. But the food store across the street is our main provider. Nevertheless, there are also bargains to be had at its main competitor right around the corner so we go there occasionally. And every Thursday, a big box drug store offers seniors 20 per cent off so that is where we go to get our milk.
And there are several other stores that get a visit from us now and then. One store has insane prices on peanut butter from time to time. And there is a smaller store which has the cheapest chocolate bars in town.
We have two cars and sometimes when I park in a lot, I recognize our other car sitting there and realize my wife is already in the store.
On the farm, we had one car for nine people. Today, in my family, we have two cars for four people and each of those cars makes sometimes several stops a day at the shops. One place has the best prices for meat, another for bread.
My mother knew her window of opportunity for grocery shopping once a week was small. Our car also served as the farm truck and my father would be impatient to see it home again so he could go get something welded or buy a new hammer or some rope.
And another thing, the stores were all closed on Sundays. And those that opened during the week would be closed by six p.m. Now, if I want to buy something in the middle of the night, and I have done it, I can go to several stores in town which are open 24 hours a day.
We have much more choice in our world today compared to the one I grew up in. But we spend a heck of a lot of time chasing after that choice.
I am sure that comes at a cost.