Are We All Irrational at Christmas?

The effects of stress can be felt in many ways. Those weeks, then days before Christmas can be the most frustrating times of the year. It’s not just the worry of choosing presents for, in my case, 4 children, their spouses, 10 grandchildren and a sensible and non-demanding wife who, and I say this at the risk of diminishing the impact of my story, willingly shoulders the bulk of the burden on decision-making and the actual purchase of presents for the small city of people I have been responsible for bringing into this world. It is all the other issues too, associated with the festive season compounded by the fact that the year comes to an abrupt end just 7 days after the BIG day.

Some folk I know simply take themselves off grid a good week before Christmas to avoid the madness. They essentially go bush to preserve their sanity. The rest of us attend all the social events, catch up socially with friends, rush to finish painting the spare room, furiously tidy the garden, mow the lawns, visit elderly relatives out of sheer guilt and bring home a Christmas tree in the back of the car cursing those prickly branches flapping around our neck whilst distributing pine needles all over the car interior together with sticky sap on hands and leather car seats. We then find there is extra food to purchase which results in additional trips on crowded roads and perilous parking in congested car parks. At this stage going off grid is enticing but one cannot simply walk away from those lovely children to whom Christmas is a day of happiness, giving and receiving.

But Christmas too, can ring the guilt bells – not merely due to overeating, over drinking and over spending but the whole gamut of pollution and saving the planet scenarios come into play. There are the vast amounts of plastics purchased, particularly in children’s toys. The packaging is plastic and polystyrene – mostly non-recyclable. Many toys are broken and discarded on the first day of use. My toys in the 1940’s and 1950’s were all wood and metal. Child-proof and virtually hammer-proof.

A morning cappuccino is always eagerly awaited in our household following the digestion or part-digestion of breakfast. Our old coffee grinder and coffee maker are, like me, showing the symptoms of old age. (At this point, it would be wise to not elaborate on personal details). Nevertheless, friends and family have been waxing lyrical about the latest coffee-pod machines with a milk-frothing unit attached – a modern marvel of engineering simplicity but with a major downside for the environment. The pods, containing a little shot of coffee grinds is made of plastic and aluminium which I believe are essentially non-recyclable. There are collection depots and the sellers state that these can be recycled but the promotion videos and pamphlets are vague on the precise means by which this recycling is supposedly done. I believe the pods are merely chopped into small pieces and used as road fill. In my book, that does not qualify as true recycling.

With all this in mind, I contemplated an upgrade to another conventional new machine – not of the pod variety. It was at this stage that the “Yes But” gremlin, who lurks deep in the bowels of inner consciousness came forth with, “yes but everyone is using them and your small addition will make no difference to world pollution”. I slapped him down with a, “how dare you intrude on my worldly thoughts with only the good of mankind to the forefront of my current thinking”. He persisted, much to my disgust with a very loud – almost audible “well”, which I was unable to ignore. Just then, the “Will I Won’t I” gremlin rose from the depths of somewhere else. She; and all “Will I Won’t I” gremlins are female, was on a see-saw with a concubine on the other end programmed to respond sharply in the negative at each positive utterance on the upswing. The seesaw rose and fell for some considerable time. It was never about to stop on the level as one of the pair had to dismount at some stage sending the other crashing to the ground. At this juncture, sanity resumed and a cup of tea was consumed with relish whilst a decision was awaited. It was a hung jury for about 24 hours.

The trip to the retailer was made alone, with the gremlins still audible though now fading out like a hearing-aid test. Just inside the main entrance, Nespresso had set up a Christmas promotion manned by a large female who, I assumed sold cream cakes on her days-off. The promotion was compelling but cunning in its structure. There was a $50 “cash-back” but the purchaser was bound to take a quantity of pods in order to “qualify”. The pods were a necessity and the manufacturer had thus made a further sale and was in the possession too, of my email address for continuing “promotions”. My irrational decision was made.

The gremlins settled back with a satisfied sigh.

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