ROSE NOLEN: Information is everywhere, but when is it helpful?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Life is filled with choices, and if I'm given any more I don't think I can bear it. There was a time when I felt pretty safe, walking around knowing my name, my address and my telephone number. Then, I had to add a ZIP code and an area code. And then things moved on from there.

Now, I'm told I shouldn't disclose anything to anyone or they're likely to steal my identity. So I have acquired all these numbers, and I can't tell anybody how to find me. It doesn't do any good to try to put your telephone number in the yellow pages because they don't have yellow pages for cellphones.

A trip to the supermarket used to be a dull, monotonous chore. All you had to do was go in the store, pick out your groceries, get back in your car and drive home. Now you have to prove you are a knowledgeable consumer. You have to read the labels on your canned goods, the dates on your dairy products and the soggy stamps on your packages of meat. Ten years ago we all thought the shelf life of food was the grocer's responsibility.

At one time, all I needed to know to get a loaf of bread was whether I wanted white, wheat or rye. Now I feel I must make an effort to find out whether the grain is real or artificial, how it was ground, in what elevator it was stored, whether the fats are saturated or unsaturated and the nutritional value of each slice. Apparently, you need to know all this stuff to be intelligent enough to choose your breakfast food. By the time I figure out how much riboflavin is in each serving of cereal and how much sugar is in my glass of fruit juice, I have had so much mental agitation that I could fall asleep before I get through eating breakfast.

The problem I have now is what do I do with all this information? After I know all this stuff, where am supposed to put it? OK, so my laundry detergent is biodegradable and contains no phosphate, but my oranges are artificially colored. So what am I supposed to do about it? What color is a real orange anyway?

Life was a lot simpler before I had to keep all this miscellaneous information in my head. I lived for years telling everyone everything before I had any idea that people were trying to steal my identity. In those days I was simply worried that they would steal my credit cards, which I figured would get them a bit further down the road than my identity.

But these days I'm in big a stir about my identity. Actually, about all they could get from my bank would be a long letter, making a serious demand for payment of debts as a result of bad checks that I never issued. So, in fact, I’m a bad candidate for identity theft.

Basically what is happening to me is that I am acquiring a lot of information that I have nothing on earth to do with. I'm learning a lot about some foods and some products I'm never going to buy, and I'm preparing for some events that might never happen, and the main thing is, I'm not enjoying the experience.

Whatever happened to fun? OK, so some people would rather think about Iran getting nuclear weapons. I prefer to get there when I get there. And I'm not there today.

Today, I'm just trying to figure out if my pancakes are enough to get me through the day. If not, tomorrow I'll try waffles.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at

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Michael Williams February 21, 2012 | 11:07 a.m.

Whatever happened to fun?

Well, for today, it was reading your column. I agree completely with you and enjoyed doing so.

I cope by being in a state of chronic grocery revolt....just give me the damn bread and where the hell is the Campbell's chicken noodle soup? And you can take those organic bean sprouts and.........

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