HTT: How To Option

I'm staring at my cup of coffee this morning, marveling, just a little bit, at it's elegant simplicity.

The act of creating such a thing is not simple at all (and I should know), the man hours required from plant to cup would probably stagger you and your perception of how the world works. But none the less, here it sits, warm, toasty, bitter, complex flavors if you want to bother looking for them, simple heft if you don't.

Good stuff.

Why would you want to mess with that?

And the answer is as complex as the olfactory sense that  experiences it.

Add a little milk and you thicken it's texture and soften it's edges.

Add a little sugar and you balance the bitter with sweet.

And this isn't a piece about my feelings towards Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cappuccinos . . . cause . . . well . . . that ship has sailed. I'm just gonna sit on the shore with my black coffee and hope the rest of you all don't get the metaphorical equivalent of scurvy while you search for a direct route to the Spice Islands.

But it did make me think of options.

Options, options everywhere and something something Ancient Mariner.

Cause there are places where a plethora of options is of utmost importance.

Women's clothing for example:

See when it comes to the shape of people . . . men have it remarkably easy. We live in two axis'. Height and weight.

Women . . . on the other hand . . . have to account for seven quantum dimensions just to put their boobs in the right place. And that's just the linear problem. There are other factors of design and color and adjustability . . . frankly . . . it's a miracle that they don't kill more people.

Or maybe they do and they're just more crafty about hiding the corpses.

I should pick up some flowers for my wife this afternoon.

But options aren't just a female phenomena.

I . . . wait for it . . . own eleven guitars. (including, of course two ukuleles, and some finely crafted instruments that my father bought and is never likely to see in his living room again).


Well each one has a dramatically different sound and feel and because . . . shut up . . . they're mine.

And options aren't a new thing either.

In a dry lake bed somewhere in Kenya there is an archeological site that was the manufacturing center of hand axes.

Not exactly ax heads, but a stone tool, wedged shaped, sharpened at one end, used to cut or saw things.

These wedge tools came in hundreds of different varieties, width, length, sharpness, serrated-ness, child-sized and industrial.

Some were so big as to render them virtually useless. They may have just been decorative like a fifty foot doughnut spinning outside a Krispy Kream.

Thing is, the site was in business for . . . wait for it . . . over 30,000 years. It had to supply, not only men women and children, but Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons and Homo-Erectus and a teenaged Dick Cheney.

That's some serious marketshare.

Yet even with a virtual world-wide monopoly, hand-ax purveyors were powerless against the whimsy of customer demand.

I used to tell this story about a guy who walks into a bicycle shop. He goes up to the counter and says he's looking for a bike. The kid behind the counter, wanting to do his best to satisfy the customer, asks the person to describe his ideal bike. The guy says "Well . . . I want really big wheels . . . and I want four of them . . . and I tire easily . . . so I'm gonna need an engine . . . and the engine has got to be really big because I want to take to over some really rough terrain . . . and I'm gonna be traversing water so I need the frame to sit really high." And the boy behind the counter says "Sir, I think your looking for a Hummer." and the guys nods his head and goes "Yeah . . . Totally! Where are your Hummer's?" and the kid behind the counter says "We're a bicycle shop." and the guy stares at the kid blankly and the kid continues "We sell bicycles." and the guy stares blankly and the kid continues "We don't sell Hummers." and the guy is taken aback and says snottily "Okay, whatever, you just lost my business." And then the guy posts a very negative Yelp review and in response, the owner of the bicycle shop makes a call to General Motors.

The moral of this story is that everyone is unhappy and will all die eventually.

No . . . that's not it at all. In fact the moral of this story (and the moral of today's How To Tuesday) is that options are are both a necessary evil and with great evil comes a great responsibility.

The point is is to know where to draw the line.

The customer (you and me) is responsible for knowing, at least partially, what it is that we want and learn the difference between personalization and utter ridiculousness.

The bike shop owner needs to have a little confidence that maybe, just maybe, the customer isn't always right and that maybe, just maybe, if the customer isn't satisfied with the product, maybe, just maybe, that person isn't really a customer at all, and you have to be okay with that.

And the kid . . . well the kid should really consider studying harder and getting a degree of some sort.

Now I know that college isn't for everyone, but like my father (the one who is never getting his guitars back) used to say:

"You don't go to college to learn more things . . . you go to college to have more options."

and then he added:

"But drink your coffee like a man."

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