Jumbo. Super-size. Extra. Gigantic. Huge.
The Lizard of Fun is writing a list of adjectives in the dust on my car window. Were sitting in the parking lot of Costco, debating whether to renew our warehouse store membership for the continued privilege of shopping for megapacks of brand-name snack foods.
"Well have more Goldfish crackers and Froot Loops than we can possibly consume before the millennium," I protest.
"But imagine that Y2K is really going to happen," says the Lizard. "Wed be the only ones on the block to be able to enjoy a delicious, fruity treat for breakfast on New Years morning."
I shake my head. "Theres nowhere to put it. Im not going to build an extra room onto the house just to store your junk food hoard."
"Well," says the Lizard, "Nothing exceeds like excess."
And were definitely in an age of excess. Some say its because the economy is booming, others speculate that were squirreling away goods while we still can.
Or maybe, since bigger things exist, we feel we deserve them. Hell, if theres a choice between a grande latte and a venti one, why not go for the bigger buzz? And why not shop at warehouse stores, where you get a whole lot more than you need, but you only pay a little bit more than you would elsewhere? Just saying "super-size it" is so simple, its a wonder we dont do it with every purchase. ("I tried that last time I bought underpants," says the Lizard. "The saleslady gave me a funny look.")
Theres no question were in an era of big, bigger, biggest. Only the biggest keeps getting topped by the even biggester. Bigger vehicles, for example. Weve all heard the quip about sport-utility vehicles being the auto industrys response to big-city problems people want towering, bulletproof, tanklike machines to protect them from the scary other people out there in the big city. Never mind that the Explorer looks like a refrigerator on wheels, or that the Ford Excursion hardly fits into the standard parking spot ("Not to mention it has the same aerodynamics as a 7-Eleven," says the Lizard). The logic is, the bigger the vehicle, the safer you are.
"Thats it," says the Lizard. "Next time Im feeling intimidated by the kid next door, Ill go out and buy me a sport-utility subway."
Of course, if we were rich enough, wed also go out and build one of those monster houses that are all the rage in certain suburbs across the country. Thousands of square feet, dozens of extra bedrooms, storage rooms, bathrooms, game rooms, kitchens and four-car garages.
The Lizard gets dreamy-eyed. "Well have our own millennial fortress," it says in a Homer Simpson-sees-a-doughnut voice. "When Y2K rolls around, well never even notice."
"Until the power goes out and were trapped in the walk-in refrigerator," I say.
"Would there be beer in that refrigerator or not?" the Lizard asks, cagily. "Maybe wed better start stockpiling now, just in case."
But if we go by the relative non-event that Nines Day (9-9-99) became, the Y2K crisis is likely to be a bigger snore than this falls television season. That still doesnt stop some folks from poking their heads up above the cloud of premillennial hysteria to say, gee, maybe we should think about a few lifestyle alternatives.
"The guys in combat fatigues with a years worth of rations in their basements?" asks the Lizard.
"Nope. Not them. The sustainable living people," I explain. "The ones who say instead of stockpiling beer, its smarter to figure out how to make it ourselves. Or install solar panels instead of worrying about whether the electrical system will work."
"Yeah like the main reason nobody noticed when the millennium turned over last time: They didnt have computers."
"Exactly," I say. "The point is, the simpler your life, the less impact this kind of thing will have."
A Sioux City, Iowa-based organization calling itself Alternatives for Simple Living, has a Web site with dozens of suggestions for scaling down our lives so well be less vulnerable to the potential loss of our electric toasters, cappuccino machines and televisions.
"Let me guess," says the Lizard. "They say chuck all the electric stuff, and well get through Y2K just fine."
"Sort of," I say. "But they also suggest we learn to do more with less, and build stronger communities to help us get through any crisis that comes along. They even sell a bunch of books and resource guides about how to do that."
"Great," says the Lizard. "Theyre telling us to cut down, and then selling us more stuff?"
"But this is important information," I protest. "It could become as vital as Froot Loops on New Years morning."
"Maybe," says the Lizard. "But Im gonna wait. If I need it, I can always read it online."