On being … primal?

By Ingrid Sapona

When I’m alone in the car I have the (bad) habit of “playing the buttons”, as my dad used to call it. If I don’t like the song, I flip to another station until I find something I like. The other morning I flipped to a station where the DJs were talking about a recent poll. I had missed the beginning of the discussion – the setup – but what I gathered was that the poll asked people what was the one thing they couldn’t live without.

Normally, I hate questions like that because they seem so contrived AND because I usually can’t come up with an answer. But this time, as soon as I heard the question, I blurted out: cheese. The fact the word popped out of my mouth without any conscious thought truly surprised me. But, I have to admit – I can’t imagine life without cheese.

As I said, I had missed the setup to the discussion about the poll. So, I didn’t know, for example, whether the poll provided a list of things to choose from, or whether people were asked to provide an answer “free-form” – as I had done. When the DJ announced the third most common answer people gave was their pet, I realized respondents must have been asked to choose between pre-set answers. Of course pet owners couldn’t live without their pets. It’d be like a parent saying they couldn’t live without their child – that’s not something you’d expect would even be in the realm of things anyone would choose to do without.

Anyway, after a brief discussion about pets and before revealing the two top answers, the DJ repeated the full question. Turns out the poll was about expenses that people incur for things but that they might be forced to give up if they were in a financial bind and had to really cut back. In that context, the number two answer – their cell phone – made perfect sense. I would have no problem giving up my cell phone. Hell, until about a year ago I had the most basic cell phone – the kind of thing that you could call 911 on, but not much more. Giving up my cell phone to cut costs isn’t much of a sacrifice, as far as I’m concerned – and it would save lots of money.

Given how surprised I was by the third and second most popular responses – and how very different they seem, I couldn’t imagine what the most common response was. Turns out the thing most people said they couldn’t live without is the internet. I will say, that response did give me pause. Having lived through some belt-tightening times, I have a ready list of services that, though I appreciate them, are always subject to cancellation should economic circumstances require it – things like Netflix, cable t.v., and newspaper subscriptions. But I’ve never actually thought about giving up the internet… that WOULD be hard to live without.

As I was weighing the choice of cheese vs. the internet, one of the DJs relieved me of the dilemma of choosing. He noted that if you have to give up the internet at home, there are still lots of places you can use it for free. The comment also helped me realize that my response of cheese actually has something in common with those who said their pet as something they can’t imagine living without – both appeal to more primal needs.

What about you? What couldn’t you give up?  

© 2017 Ingrid Sapona


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