Given you’re reading one of the more obscure pages in a specialist motoring magazine, I think it’s fair to assume that you have a certain idea of what you’re looking for when it comes to buying a car.
That you’ll understand, more than most, the pitfalls and benefits of choosing one model over another.
But imagine you don’t. Imagine, for a moment, that you need to buy something you’ll use fairly often, perhaps for an hour or more a day, but about which you’re not armed with any expertise whatsoever. You could, quite by chance and with absolutely no intent, buy the wrong thing.
It’s a situation I’ve found myself in twice in the past couple of weeks. Once, because my dentist has recommended I buy a water flosser (don’t ask); the other, because I’m looking to buy a steering wheel and a set of pedals to use with PlayStation driving games.
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One of these things I will use once or perhaps twice a day, and its performance will have a marked impact on my oral health. If I choose wrongly, every six months or so my dental hygienist will attack me with tools I would prefer she didn’t and, nice though she is, I really don’t look forward to seeing her. It could prolong the time I spend with my own gnashers, and delay the point where I have to eat soup more often than I care to.
The other thing I will use once in a blue moon, and the worst that will happen if I get it wrong is that it’ll cost me a tenth of a second in a braking manoeuvre against a mate I’m racing over the internet.
You can obviously tell, then, which one I bought after 45 minutes of internet browsing and review reading, and which one I’m still agonising over more than a month after having the idea in the first place.
Yes, the flosser has arrived. And it is extraordinary, by the way. So powerful that if you want your driveway pressure-washed or a sheet of steel cut through, just let me know and I’ll pop round with it.
I think it was easier to buy because, emotionally, I don’t care. All it needs to do is its job well. I don’t actually give a monkey’s what it looks like, or how loud its pump is (extremely, if you turn it up to 11, incidentally), all I’m worried about is that it generates enough pressure, holds enough water, has buttons in the right places and that the bit you put in your mouth isn’t made from sharks’ teeth. It’s not an emotional purchase.
The wheel, though? Well, that’s something else. That involves driving and it involves feel and I’m crippled by an irrational fear that I might buy the wrong thing. That there’ll be something out there blessed with steering feel of a Porsche 911 GT3 and brake pedal feel of a Rolls-Royce Phantom but that I’ll inadvertently choose something with all the response of a Tata Safari instead. Genuinely, I’d be crestfallen.
There seem to be three major brands, so I asked some learned colleagues and friends and, helpfully, they managed to recommended each one pretty much equally.
I will read more, and watch more, and eventually I’ll buy the right one and be very happy with it. But I have concluded, reluctantly, that if you don’t know very much about something, that perhaps it is better to not care at all.