Skip to main content
This Week
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 8 years ago

Common Nonsense: "Swatch' and learn: Color me flustered

by: Mike Cavaliere

Is there anything in life more emotionally crippling than a stroll down the paint swatch aisle?

Ask me if I want Chinese or pizza for dinner and I’ll tailspin into a storm of indecision. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I’ll say. “Pump the brakes. Let’s just all relax and I’ll go grab my pros-and-cons diary.”

After that, I’ll usually give my priest a quick call. And that’s usually followed by a hearty stress nap.

But in spite of all that, Lowes somehow expects me to not only be able to tell the near-indecipherable difference between colors called Sumatra Brown and Sumatra Decaf Brown, but also decide which one — or maybe one of the 50,000 other shades displayed on the wall like hotel brochures, advertising all the colorful places I could go if only I weren’t so terrified of change — to put on my walls forever as a reflection of my true inner Self.

Get real.

The Holmes and Rahe stress scale — which measures major life events in terms of how the anxiety tied to them might eventually, maybe, definitely kill you — puts stuff like divorce and imprisonment in its Top Four. And yeah, those things aren’t exactly a walk in the park, I’ll give them that. But this list was also made in 1970, and the paint swatch aisle wasn’t even invented until the mid-‘80s (conceptualized, of course, by Arthur P. Swatch, who we all know now was the inspiration for modern takes on such evil masterminds as Lex Luther and The Joker, as well as — who can forget? — the trolls in “Ernest Scared Stupid”).

Swatch’s other credits include playing Jar Jar Binks in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” creating reality TV and, most recently, inventing the selfie.

“Need any help with anything?” a kid with a blue vest asked me, after I had been paralyzed in front of the swatch display for anywhere between two and 40 minutes. The guy had to be 19 years old, 20 tops, and he had in those plastic studs meant to stretch his earlobes out, which I took to mean he had to know his stuff. Which was intimidating.

So I just stared at him.

“If you’re looking for more options, next aisle over,” he said.

And I kept staring.

“And, uh, sandpaper’s over there,” he said

And that’s when I started backpedaling, slowly, further and further away from him until I was completely out of view, cowering behind a display toilet across the store.

Phew, that was a close one, I thought. But the pressure was getting to me. And it wasn’t over yet.

Already, I could feel the adverse health effects Holmes and Rahe had warned about taking their toll. My palms were sweaty. My stomach ached. My eyes were bloodshot.

Next, I had no doubt, would be spontaneous combustion — and before I even got to move into my new house, too! Classic Cavaliere luck.

I waited until the teenage paint expert had cleared the premises to scurry back to the swatches and grab randoms from the wall as fast as I could. The Fight or Flight response was in full swing now and, like always, my body chose Flight.

It wasn’t even a contest. The vote was unanimous.

So I booked it out of there, sped away, got home and locked all the doors and windows.

When the panic dissipated and I finally caught my breath, I fanned out my swatches and began to reevaluate.

OK, I thought. Not so bad, actually.

From the looks of it, my living room will be painted purple, with bright yellow, red and orange accent walls. Every wall an accent wall — oh, maybe that can be my design trademark! The bounce house look: perfect.

Yeah, this home-buying this is all going to work out, after all. I can do this. No doubt. I’m going to be OK.

I honestly don’t know what you all were so worried about.

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

Related Stories