Perhaps the country began going to seed when Dunkin’ Donuts ended the belly-up coffee counter, its wonderful java offered in welcome-pardner ceramic mugs. For a small price relative to these days, you could nurse the brew while you day-dreamed or maybe shot the breeze with a pal. There were no double-mocha lattes, no designer croissant sandwiches to complicate.
Reaching farther back, the old diners also had counters where the cuppa was even cheaper (5¢, 10¢), and where you were more likely to meet someone you knew or a village character, to have more of a hometown visit. Most “diners” today have menus longer than the counters back when. How did life get so entangled? When did so many choices hit us?
Some parents begin making college plans for their children right out of the box, before they enroll them in the correct pre-school. Seniors on Part D of the national prescription drug plan face quarterly choices over which is cheapest, which gives the most. Young adults don’t know where they should build their lives -- will the jobs last? Will there always be a middle class?
The electorate is totally confused. Candidates push great rhetoric, make many grand promises that get lost in the system once elected. Whom do you trust?
The technologically challenged are befuddled by cellphones, computers, big-screen TVs. What buttons to push? What media/data/voice plan to buy?
The world promises to become even more complex. What careers to pursue in this economy? How to invest wisely?
This isn’t to say that back in the 1960s when Dunkin’ had a counter, life was always so simple it was easier to get through the day, to build a future. That was the decade of continuing civil rights battles, unsettled, unsettling controversy over the undeclared Vietnam War, the sexual renaissance and the start of Great Society social programs. Everything was already changing much more quickly than in the previous several decades. Even Dunkin’ was part of that, its coffee and donuts a leader in the rapidly appearing, ever-more-complex fast-food culture.
It is inevitable that change will beget more change, and that like a bus going downhill with uncertain brakes, the curves ahead will prove challenging. The curves will be many, as will be the bumps in the road. Do we, as individuals, as the nation, as the world get off and take another route?
I think, for me, I’d find that old diner, grab a cup of joe and sit a spell, day-dreamin’.
Too many choices, that’s what.