The only thing we need more of is less

The problem with this country today is not, as the fear mongers would have us believe, that we have too little of anything. The problem is that we've got way too much of everything.

Take information, for example. Call me crazy, but I don't really care to know about Brangelina's relationship problems or Meg's plastic surgery or Britney's personal hygiene.

Unfortunately, I can't even go through the checkout line at Kroger without being force-fed that kind of unsavory information, unless I close my eyes. The one time I tried that, I wound up paying for somebody else's Depends.

Another thing we have far too much of is food. Remember how our mothers used stories of starving children in order to guilt-trip us into choking down our vegetables? I suppose those children might be out there somewhere, but I've never seen them. The children I see are waddling back to the buffet line for the fourth time.

Nowadays, the prevailing mentality at most eating establishments, fast-food or otherwise, is "super-size it!" Personally, I say no thanks to "biggie" fries, unless they come with a free pair of "biggie" jeans.

And then, finally, there are the warehouse stores, those stadium-sized uber-markets whose motto should be, "Buy More - Because You Can!"

The main complaint I have with warehouse stores is that you can't just run in and pick up a few things, unless by "a few things" you mean a pallet of toilet paper, 500 pounds of dog food, 12 dozen eggs and new patio furniture.

The supposed advantage is that you save a lot of money by buying in bulk. I get the buying in bulk part - and I've got the basement to prove it - but I'm not totally sold on all those money-saving claims. The truth is, I've never gotten out of one of those places for under $200 - and that was without the patio furniture.

I use the phrase "gotten out" advisedly, by the way, because that describes perfectly the process of exiting a warehouse store. You don't just leave, like at a normal store. You have to "get out," as if you've spent time in lock-up. (Not that I'm speaking from personal experience ...)

Or, to be more precise, they have to let you out. An employee literally guards the door, armed with a yellow highlighter, and suspiciously eyeballs your shopping cart (or your fork lift), checking its contents against your receipt.

I've always wondered, what exactly are they worried about? Do they really think I'm going to stuff five gallons of mayonnaise or a 20-pack of ink cartridges down my pants?

The one thing the warehouse stores have going for them, I guess, is that they don't have magazine racks at the checkout lanes. Then again, who needs the tabloids when you just bought an entire pallet of toilet paper?

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.