Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Some words seem to be irresistible

These four words are sure-fire attention-getters when you see them on labels: Convenient, Amish, sale, and gourmet.

Slap any one of them on any product, from shoes to cell phones or gumdrops, and the American shopper flocks to them like an Amish chicken in the barnyard.

It's almost amusing. “Gourmet” gumdrops? Please, give us a break.

And “convenient” plastic ketchup packets? Who can open them in a restaurant without discreetly gnashing them with their teeth?

Products designed to make life easier aren't always that convenient, and can provoke such frustration that we think returning to the old ways would be welcome.

Sale signs are a big green light. All the clothing stacked up at garage sales this summer is a clue that we do overdo it when the sale price goes up.

The word “gourmet” is certainly overworked. Pies I saw in the refrigerated supermarket case Monday carried the prestigious gourmet label. They had been manufactured in a faraway factory and shipped. Goodness knows how many miles they had traveled before getting into my shopping cart. They were chosen because they were custard and chocolate cream and would be perfect for a friend's birthday anniversary, not because of the word gourmet.

As for the several products that carry the Amish label, don't you wonder if the chickens marked “Amish” ever grazed on grasses in Amish country? To the food shopper, the connection between a raw packaged chicken and the pastoral countryside where the horse and buggy people maintain their Old World lifestyles is magic. The chicken goes in the market cart.

Angel food cake is another product credited to the Amish, and we buy it thinking a sweet lady in traditional dark dress, apron, and white cap baked it in a wood stove in her farm kitchen. That's a lovely picture and it does work in the heart of Amish country, where cakes may be sold from the back porch.

Come to think of it, there's a lot of oak furniture being sold that is credited to Amish craftsmen. They must be very busy in their shops on the farms in Indiana and Ohio turning out all those tables and chairs.

We may at times wish we could return to the old days before cell phones, computers, and other products guaranteed to make daily chores more convenient. Cell phones are a good example of a supposedly convenient product that some of us think we can't survive without.

Monday night's storm caused me to be late for a dinner. Before I could explain, friends asked what my cell phone number is because they were worried and wanted to reach me. Three people each had a different number, and none was the current one. Because of poor service, I am on my fourth company; hence, I have a fourth number.

It's a toss-up whether cell phones or computers can send your stress level higher. A week ago, in five frustrating hours talking with Internet technicians, none discovered the company had mistakenly defaulted my service. But for $50 a local technician solved the problem in 15 minutes and I was back online and ready for business.

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