Simple - schlimple - nothing is simple anymore. Nowadays, everything is a big deal.

In the old days, we'd get up in the morning, contemplate our surroundings and decide on the spur of the moment to give our interior walls a quick makeover. After a five-minute visit to the friendly neighborhood hardware store or paint shop, we were all set.

"What color do you want?" the man behind the counter would ask.

"Blue - not a navy blue, mind you; more like a robin's egg blue, or something similar to the color of the blouse worn by that lady over there. I think the blouse kind of highlights her eyes. It's a very pleasant aspect."

The guy nodded knowingly, walked to a shelf and instantaneously produced a gallon of the desired color. Or, with minimum fanfare, he opened a can of plain white paint, spritzed a dab of blue tint in it and mixed it thoroughly, possibly by hand. Voilá. There you had it.

After covering the walls, you might discover that what you got was not robin's egg blue or a facsimile of the lady's blouse after all, but more of a baby blue or a shade that reminded you of grandpa's faded overalls.

But, you know what? It looked just as nice in its own blue way, and, besides, it was a far sight better than the now covered-up dirty-looking ocre that was reminiscent of something the cat spit up. The wife was happy, more or less - and really, isn't that the best of all outcomes?

It's not that simple anymore. Now every paint dealer in the world displays row upon row ad infinitum of samples that represent every possible color variation known to the civilized world (and probably a few additional colors that have been previously viewed only by the timid white-nosed anaconda in the most remote corners of the Amazon basin). Dropping by the store with the vague notion that you want to paint your living room blue will no longer cut it.

That's because "blue" is now more a general concept than a definable preference. In a world of unlimited choice, just what is "blue" anyway? If you think you know all you need to know about this primary color, you're wrong.

There could be 497 distinct shades of blue on display in the store - from a pale blue that looks almost white to the naked eye to a deep cerulean that captures the exact instant when our surroundings transform themselves from dusk to nightfall, and all hues in between. Have you considered azure? Cobalt? Prussian blue? Royal blue? Steel blue? Cornflower blue? Turqoise? Ultramarine? Indigo? Guaranteed, they are all there somewhere, lurkng in one of those interminable rows of samples.

Blue is now in the eye of the beholder. One man's blue could even be another man's violet. Whatever blue turns you on!

Don't even think about deciding spontaneously to paint a wall with the goal of having the job completed before bedtime. You'd be better advised to proceed with a split-second elopement than to make a rash decision on a paint color. Once the can is pried opened and a brush stroke appears on the wall, you own that paint forever and you live with the results of that bad decision every day. As you sit on your lounge chair contemplating your folly, you are left to wistfully lament, "Ah, if only I considered cranberry." Talk about feeling blue.

To stave off a color catastrophe, it's best to pocket a generous supply of paint samples that will aid you in contemplating your ideal pigment. The samples usually come three to a card, providing slight variations on a basic color theme. The more cards you take home, the more options to consider. Wisdom demands that you hold up each card next to the targeted wall, solicit opinions from family and friends and just get more and more confused. Doubts emerge: Maybe I'm being too conservative in think only of blue, maybe I should go with a bright orange, a nice tangerine, pumpkin or persimmon. If only I could find that box of Crayola crayons.

I'm technologically inept, but I'm told the technologically ept are able to take a picture of their room and then digitally check how the room would look in that particular blue aspect. That's a step forward. If the real room could be painted digitally, there would be fewer sore muscles the next day. Now, that would be progress.

(Betz is an assistant editor of The News-Item.)