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T V Commercials

search I laughed when I read the comments posted under my Facebook friend’s question: If you could ban one TV commercial you hate, which one would you choose? With her permission, I posted the same question and warned that comments would be shared in this column.

I don’t like TV advertisements, but I understand that sponsors are necessary on commercial networks. I endure, and usually mute, commercials during sport events and fast-forward them on recorded dramas so most commercials that my friends mentioned I hadn’t seen. I googled them. There are some strange ones.

Many friends don’t like a famous actor who transforms into a strange persona with scrawny arms or crazy hair or someone called a meathead. The first time I saw Scrawny Arms, I laughed. Somehow it made me think of the Three Stooges. Humor that’s good for one laugh.

My friends obviously think food should be eaten in kitchens and dining rooms. Certainly not in a car and certainly not in a provocative way. I agree. Does anyone else remember the commercials about coffee that was good to the last drop? And soup that is M’m, M’m good? Those aired when families ate meals sitting around a kitchen table.

Animal lovers cringe when they hear a ‘sappy song’ because they know that pictures of abandoned animals will be shown. “I can’t get to the remote fast enough!” one friend said. She changes the channel and doesn’t watch the program.

A grandmother doesn’t like car commercials that show irresponsible driving. “Do young drivers really need to know that a car can do a figure 8 at 90 mph in a parking lot?” she asked.

Furniture commercials made impressions. Bad impressions. It’s annoying a friend said to hear a one syllable word, chaise, be ‘drug into eight syllables.’ And watching a woman drag a chair around her house irritates many people.

Several friends commented about drug commercials. One said, “I don’t think they should promote prescription drugs. Especially when they read disclaimers for thirty seconds at double speed and have no idea how drugs will react with some of the other drugs that you are taking.” And another wondered why anyone would think that green monsters coming out of someone’s nose would sell medicine.

Many friends would ban what I call behind-the-door commercials. I say, “If a product should be used a behind closed door, i.e., bathroom or bedroom, I don’t want to see a commercial for it.” A mother said, “It’s embarrassing to see such products advertised while sitting in the same room with your teen-age grandchildren or father-in-law.” One friend doesn’t even like seeing a bear squeeze a package of toilet paper.

Then there are annoying jingles and songs that get stuck in my friends’ heads. Five, five dollar, five-dollar foot long. You could’ve had a V-8. The writers of these commercials did their job too well.

Two friends expressed concern about banning anything, anywhere, anytime. And some friends reminded me that there are alternate ways to watch movies and dramas and ball games. Or if I’d simply hit the off button on the remote, I could avoid all annoying commercials and the programs. Or I could watch only public television where the commercials are much more pleasing.

Or I could read a good book. I’ll do that as soon as this basketball game is over.

A Surprise Christmas Gift

outline_of_a_television_set_0515-0911-0317-3308_SMUWhile shopping at the Goodwill Store, I hear the crackle of an intercom and then a lady’s voice.  “Is this on?” she said.  I looked toward the checkout counter.

“Will the young man who looked at a TV and wanted it please come to the front?” the lady said.  I looked around.  No one walked toward the front.  Without using the microphone, the lady turned to three other store employees who stood crowded around the counter close to her and said, “What if he doesn’t know who he is?  Anything else I can say?”  They talked among themselves, but I could only hear the lady who made the announcement.

“Will the tall young man who told someone that you wished you could buy a TV please come to the check-out counter?”  she announced.  “Think he’ll come now?”  she said without the microphone.  “Shouldn’t we go look for him?”

He was tall.  Taller than six feet and slim.  He walked in a slow, easy-going way with his chin tucked low as he approached the checkout counter.  The Goodwill employees parted to make space for him.  A TV sat on the counter.  “This is for you,” the lady to the man.  I couldn’t see his face or hear him.  “No, really, it’s yours.  A gift.” she said.

The employees clapped and laughed.  One patted him on the back and all except the lady who’d made the announcement walked away.  “Another customer brought it up here and said to give it to the young man who wished he could buy it.  He paid for it,” she said.

The young man obviously said something and I wanted to walk closer and hear the conversation, but an audience would have been an intrusion.  “All I know is he wanted you to have this TV and he paid for it and it’s yours.  So Merry Christmas!”  she said.  He didn’t pick up the TV.  “Yes, you can take it right now unless you have some other shopping.  I’ll keep it right here till you’re ready to go.”

He wrapped his arms around the portable TV and picked it up.  He walked a few steps away from the counter.  “Oh, wait,” the lady called to him.  “I forgot something.  There’s money left over.  The man said to give it to you.”  He shook his head and walked back to the counter where he set the TV.  “Yes, I’m sure,” said the lady.  She laid some bills in his hand.  With the back of his other hand, he wiped his eyes.

I hope the anonymous donor saw that tall young man as he walked toward the store’s door. He took long intentional steps and held his head high.  And he was smiling.  As he walked out the door, he dropped his head and shook it from side to side.

A surprise Christmas gift for one young man.  A gift that was generous and kind.  A gift that reminded me the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Ray household to yours!  May all your Christmas wishes come true.  Look for the next Where We Are column on Tuesday, December 31st.