I miss the old Soviet Union. Not the imperialistic, rights-treading, Stalin-loving behemoth that killed and enslaved millions. That Soviet Union I can definitely do without.
But I do miss one aspect of the old Evil Empire: the paucity of consumer choice inherent in their communist system. Given what we face in our capitalist Eden of today, the old socialist planned economy doesn't look so bad anymore.
Think about it. Do we really need six dozen kinds of soap or 50 different toothpastes or a half acre of shampoos? The wealth of product options is overwhelming.
For those who like to shop, this surfeit of selections seems to be welcome. But I, for one, have had enough. I'm tired of having to decide between regular, mint-flavored, tartar-control, or whitening formula. And that's just for dog food.
At first, it seems nice to have lots of choices. But once the Q-tips start getting their own wing in the store, the selections have become too much.
That's why I'm proposing a new type of market – a one-choice convenience store. Something I call 1-11. It's like a 7-11 but without the beef jerky.
The 1-11 store makes it easy. There's one type of bread: white and sliced. That's it. No fretting over 100 percent whole wheat, 60 percent whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, sliced, unsliced, multigrain, pita, baguette, Italian, Canadian, French, or Tutsi. You want bread? Sliced white bread is what you get.
Like a 7-11, a 1-11 will also offer on-site beverages or, to be more precise, one on-site beverage: coffee. Regular coffee in one cup size. No rainbow selection of coffees from Arabica to Zanzibar. No incomprehensible Starbucks-style menu board. Plain old coffee in a plain old cardboard cup. One choice, one price.
1-11 meets all your one-stop shopping needs without the hassle of choice. It puts the convenience back in convenience store.
Take tuna. We'll have just plain white tuna. Not tuna in water, tuna in oil, and tuna in oil and water. Not tuna caught without a seining net, a hair net, a dragnet, or the Internet. Just tuna. Similarly, the chicken parts won't be free range, or open range, or golf range. Just wings and drumsticks and thighs. This is a grocery store not a political statement.
We won't have a bank in this new store. It won't have a deli or a florist or a winery or pyramids of produce under soft lighting that makes the rutabagas look like Gisele. We'll have beef and batteries and cereal – one type each – on a white shelf.
If the 1-11 concept catches on, look for it to expand beyond food and beverage products. Need a car? Don't worry about all those makes, models, options, styles, Bose stereos, and burl-wood dashes: 1-11 offers one car – a boxy, grey sedan with perfectly acceptable gas mileage. For most of us, that's all we really need.
With the advent of 1-11, we can free ourselves from the prison of too much consumer choice and recapture precious time. Time that could be better spent at the 1-11 bookstore – and I mean "book" store.
• David Martin, a humor writer, lives in Ottawa.