Baring in mind that the worst day of a healthy middle class American is often better than the best days of poor souls in some other counties - I was having a bad day. Not a terrible day but a frustrating one. I had technical issues at work, a flat tire on a vehicle, errands which took twice as long and were three times more costly than expected- all made worse by lack of sleep.
By the day's end I needed a hug. I had been keeping my mate, Ellen, informed of my frustrations throughout the afternoon. As I walked into the house late in the day she was ready. We embraced each other and she said, "Sorry."
My troubles seemed to melt as we held each other and rocked slightly. Before she let me go she gave one last squeeze and said, "You smell like a goat."
Most who know us would agree that my mate and I are compatible. Though we are from vastly diverse backgrounds we have similar values, politics and passions. Where we differ is in a sense of smell - I don't have one, but my wife can smell a flea's flatulence.
Before I continue, I want to make clear, at the time of that hug; my socks were fairly clean, as was my clothing and body. All that said I did not smell like a goat. Ellen's declaration was more of a means of chiding my choice in laundry detergent and a reminder that I needed to buy another brand.
I will admit, I had bought one of the less expensive generic varieties offered. I was told by a store employee that the product was virtually identical to the name brand stuff at half the cost. Though the label read "Free of dyes, perfumes and harsh cleansing agents," from the first load Ellen noticed the difference. No pleading or reasoning on my part could deflect her declaration. She knew that whenever she came within nose-shot of me and gave a gentle reminder that she didn't like the way I smelled, I would go back to the store and buy another brand. So that is what I did.
There was a recent study of buyer's remorse versus customer satisfaction done in Europe. Scientists sent 50 college students to a store to buy a pair of pants. For one group the store contained multiple sizes but only two styles of pants. The other group went to another store with 10 styles to choose from. After each group wore the pants for a few months they were surveyed to see who was happiest with their purchase. As you might have guessed the group who bought one of the two styles offered were much more satisfied with their selection than was the group that had a choice of 10. In fact, the second group was by and large unhappy with their purchases.
While shopping to replace the detergent I understood how that second group felt.
Being once burnt and twice shy, I allowed myself some time to pick out the perfect detergent that would pass my mate's sniff test. The choices were endless and overwhelming. There were detergents for hot water, hard water, colorfast, some with bleaches and water softeners. I found mountain scent, mango scent, fresh scent, tropical grapefruit, lavender and basil; there was one that said, "Scent-lock carbon reacting." (I have no idea what that is.) But no detergent was advertising itself as "smell-less." I was so stunned by the choices I left empty handed.
The modern world has become a product of our own success. So many choices can complicate even the simplest decisions and lessen the satisfaction. Why settle for good enough when perfect is possible. Personally, I'd rather adapt to good enough than search for better. But admittedly I'm no bag of jewels; a flat tire and too many errands can ruin my day.
Finally, deciding to take matters into her own hands, my mate went out and purchased some detergent. She actually bought some (I'm not kidding) "Clean Day basil scented detergent." She seems to like it, but when we hug it makes me think of pizza. But I'm OK with that. A happy wife is a happy life - plus basil goes well with goat.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at