What’s the deal with BIG stuff?

The Snark Zone: Letters from the Editors
Theryn “Beaver” Fleming

McMinimumWage Employee: “Would you like fries with that?”
Customer: “Yes, I’ll have a small order of fries.”
McMinimumWage Employee: “We don’t have small. We have Big, Extra-Big, and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Big.”

Big vehicles. Big TVs. Big beds. Big houses. Big food. Is it just me, or does it seem like North Americans have lost all sense of proportion?

Cars that shrank during the energy crisis of the seventies have now ballooned to ridiculous dimensions. In the ’70s, a family of four or five managed quite nicely with a four-door sedan, thank you very much. Today it seems to be a given that a family of the same size “needs” a giant nine-seater gas-guzzling SUV, or equally large minivan (there’s a misnomer if I ever saw one).

Speaking of those “sport-utility vehicles”, when was the last time you saw one leave the pavement? Ha! Now I hear that parking spaces are actually being enlarged to accommodate these freakishly large vehicles. Um— are alarms going off in no one’s brain but mine? Enough already. No one “needs” a vehicle that big.

Case in point: For a few years we lived up north where it’s winter for too many months of the year. I arrived in town with my old, small car. 90% of the vehicles on the road were enormous crew cab trucks, or SUVs. Everyone I talked to told me they “had” to have these honkin’ vehicles because of the “severe winter conditions”. Right. For three years I drove my very old, very small car in those “conditions” with no issues whatsoever. The “need” for a big vehicle resided only in their media-manipulated brains. And oh yeah, I didn’t have to leave my car running everytime I went to the grocery store either. (snark)

Maybe it’s because I’m small myself, but I like small stuff. Much of the time big stuff is not only unnecessary, it’s unwieldy and fugly. Sure, I’d like a new car (if I can find one without a anti-small-person bag o’ death embedded in the steering wheel). But when I say “car”, I mean car. I’d rather have a quality small item, than a gigantic PoS.

Of course, what we consider “small” these days used to be considered normal. Remember the double bed? Yeah, we still have one. It’s the perfect size, too. But the assumption these days is that you’ll at least have a queen, if not a king. A king-size bed? First of all, who has a room that big? And second, if I’m sleeping with someone, I’d like to be able to tell they’re actually in bed with me. I know, it’s a concept. Chew on it awhile.

I’m quite happy with my 19-inch television, too. Not too small, not too big. Just the right size. I like TV, but I don’t like it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t want a television so big it screams “TV!” even when it’s off.

But I guess you need a 52-inch screen if you’re going to fill up your 3,000 square foot McMansion. Call me crazy, but all I can think when I see one of those monstrosities is: “Well, that’s original. Not.” and “Where’s the house? All I can see is garage.”, but mostly: “Ugh. Must take forever to clean.” Oh, I know, you could hire someone to clean it. But I don’t like the idea of “someone” traipsing around my house, mucking with my stuff. It squicks me out. Not to mention, I’d be one of those people who’d have to clean for the cleaning lady. So that’s out. And while I do clean because I prefer not to live in squalor, it’s not at the top of my “Fun Things To Do” list. I find cleaning 1½ baths tiresome. So I can’t imagine living in a house with four or five.

But I guess that’s the price you pay to maintain the illusion that you’re keeping up with the Joneses. Never mind that all your big stuff (and theirs) is mortgaged/leased/financed/purchased on credit. You look good! Or do you…

Perhaps the most insidious thing of all is what this “bigger is better” marketing campaign has done to our food. Remember when McDonald’s had two sizes of fries: large and small? Then some genius came up with “super-size”. So for a while, there were small, large, and super-size. But somewhere along the line, the old “large” became regular and “super-size” became large. A new even bigger “super-size” was introduced and voila! The super-sizing of us was under way.

These days, when we go to a movie, my SO and I generally share a small drink and regular popcorn. That doesn’t sound like much, but that “small” drink is approximately 16 ounces, and the “regular-size” popcorn is in a sack the size of a grocery bag. Inevitably they say something like,”It’s only 50 cents more if you buy the large drink (approximately the size of a 2L bottle) and the large popcorn (in a bag that I could fit inside).” Yep, only 50 cents and 5,000 calories more! What a deal! When they can’t sell you on that, they turn to the bubbling vat of “golden topping” and ask if you’d like your popcorn drenched in it. (sigh)

And have you noticed that vending machines are turning away from cans in favor of the larger plastic bottles? Seriously, it’s a conspiracy, based on corporate greed. The food gets bigger, then we get bigger, then we need bigger beds and furniture and cars, then we need a bigger house to put all our big stuff.

Just as we’ve been sucked into believing that every bride needs a rock worth two months’ of her husband-to-be’s salary on her finger and that we’re horrible human beings if we don’t send Hallmark greetings to our moms on Mother’s Day, we as a society have bought into the advertising-driven perception that if it’s big, it must be good. Yes, sometimes big stuff is good—the Rocky Mountains are nice, as is the Grand Canyon—and sometimes it’s even better—it does help to be seven feet tall if you want to play in the NBA. But the reality is, sometimes bigger is just that— bigger. And sometimes, bigger is not good at all.


Beaver can be reached at beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com.

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