JOANNE MCCARTHY: Shopping trip boils over

“I didn’t end up buying a jug. I hadn’t done enough research … I hadn’t been taking it seriously enough”.SO I thought I’d buy myself a new electric jug to put in the kitchen of the house I’ve just moved into.
Nanjing Night Net

A pretty straightforward exercise, you would have thought.

The old one met its maker when I sold my previous house and moved out in December, and spent the following two months at a friend’s house until I could move into my new one.

Lots of things did not make the cull that comes when you can’t move your belongings into the house you’ve bought, but have to distribute them to five different locations.

It’s amazing what you can dispense with when you’re relying on the kindness of friends and family, and the space in their spare bedrooms, to park your gear.

So the electric jug was punted, although my sons believed it should have gone about a year earlier. It hadn’t cost much in the first place. It was bought in a hurry when an earlier one died. I’d allotted 3.2 minutes of my time for the purchase, which meant price was the only relevant consideration. Plus I’d forgotten my glasses so there really was no point in even trying to compare kilowatts or capacity. The jug was cheap, cheerful and reliable enough, barring the occasional unreliable times when I pressed the start button and absolutely nothing happened.

I soon learnt that if I went about my business it would usually come to life, and it was actually amusing at times to see how long it would take for the thing to get going. Unless, of course, I just wanted a pot of tea without jug capriciousness, in which case it was annoying. I think I tolerated the situation much longer than most, so I tossed it into the bin without remorse.

I set no time limit the other day when I searched for its replacement. A lovely house that I plan to stay in for a long time deserved an elegant new jug, I decided. I pictured myself boiling the jug, filling the teapot – with tea leaves, never bags, of course – and placing it on a tray with a cup and saucer – never a mug – and a biscuit or two.

Then I pictured myself walking to the back deck where I would view the estate – fine, backyard – while reading a good book as birds twittered and soft garden fragrances wafted on the breeze. Lovely.

But I had to buy the jug first.

Now I’m a fan of capitalism. Competition in the market is a wonderful thing for consumers. It ensures – we hope – that we get the best price for goods because manufacturers compete for our business.

But sometimes it just does our heads in.

I compare trying to buy an electric jug the other day with the first time I really took the trouble to distinguish the kind of milk I wanted. Full cream, extra full cream, lo-fat, lite, slim, skim, soy, goat, rice milk, cashew milk, condensed, no-protein, super-vitamin, etc, etc, etc, and that was even before I reached the no-name milk section of supermarket specials.

Jugs don’t just boil water any more.

They come with flashing lights and swirling bars. They’re see-through, turbo-charged or jet-fast. But most of all, they come with piles of buttons.

There’s the button you press if you want green tea. There’s other buttons for chai, oolong, coffee and white tea, and eventually I found a button to get water to boiling point. I think.

I didn’t end up buying a jug. Even though I hadn’t allotted time for the task, I also hadn’t done enough research to safely commit money to a purchase that, clearly, Ihadn’t been taking seriously enough.

That kind of thing has been happening to me recently. Given too many choices, I take fright and do nothing.

Take my experiences in my friend’s house. She kindly allowed me to stay in it while she was overseas, and I was between homes. It is a lovely house, which was great, but also a problem.

She showed me how to use its many features – too many of which came with their own remotes. I’m not good with remotes. All those buttons. And because it was my friend’s house and it was lovely and I didn’t want to break anything, I didn’t use the majority of its many features. The airconditioner looked daunting. The dishwasher flashed too many messages and intimidated the hell out of me. I forced myself to negotiate the command module of the washing machine because, frankly, six weeks of wearing unwashed clothes during a humid summer with no airconditioning did not bear thinking about.

I tried to work through the three remotes associated with the TV/DVD/CD/other- things-with-wires entertainment centre, but gave up and phoned my youngest son who sighed when I explained the situation, and drove round to help.

‘‘It’s very simple,’’ he said, in the patronising way that sons in their 20s adopt with their middle-aged mothers when their middle-aged mothers can’t work out how to get a DVD to appear on a screen.

‘‘You press this, and then this, and then that thing comes up, and then you simply take the other remote and press this, this and this, and then you do a pirouette and press that final red button – not the green one – and voila, the DVD appears, although why you would want to watch that, I do not know,’’ said my son, who was a dear little boy for years until he grew very tall and started patting me on the head.