The most humorous time slot on television, night after night, is the time allocated each hour for commercials. As it happens, it is also the most frustrating slice of time for all of us who are “remote clickers”. I often forget how entertaining the ads can be and I start jumping from one channel to another trying to avoid the sales pitches, invariably to find that they have all scheduled their commercials at the same time. And, for some strange reason, I never can remember that time has passed and the program I was watching has likely returned until it’s ten minutes later and I happen to land on the original channel again just as the program ends. But, I’ve edged away from my original thought, haven’t I?
I’m certain that the corporate executives who purchased the advertising time for the amusing commercial I caught tonight had no intention of tickling my funny bone. They did it anyway, in spite of their real motivation. I will tell you that I tend to be a skeptic anytime I’m being sold something, but this was Hershey’s chocolate! I’m already a customer, even before the sales pitch begins. Hey, it’s chocolate…what more do I have to hear? The eyes see chocolate and the brain is already on overload. But…not this time. By some fluke, I actually heard what the announcer said. “Chocolate bubbles…aerated chocolate…light and airy texture…” Did I hear that correctly? Chocolate bubbles? Yep, I looked at what they were showing and saw…air bubbles in the chocolate bar. Seriously? I think these people possess what is commonly known as moxie. Arrogance mixed with an overdose of self-confidence. They actually want to sell me air bubbles! They even tell me that’s what they’re doing. For the same cost as a solid chocolate bar, I can purchase one which is honey-combed with air pockets. I’ve not purchased the product yet, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a wise use of my resources. If I’m to sabotage my own dietary plan, I’ll have the real chocolate, thank you. Please note that, not having tried this chocolate bar, I am not making a statement as to the flavor or even the textural experience, but I’m not likely to fall for this one. Not that I don’t admire the nerve of a company that tries to sell me a product that is significantly made up of air. They’re even bold enough to tell me that this is what they are doing!
As I flipped channels tonight (during another of the commercial breaks), I happened to see a rerun of a “60 Minutes” segment where Morley Safer was taking a tour of the mint where pennies were made. I have long been an advocate of eliminating the penny from our money supply, due simply to sheer laziness on my part. I hate counting out so many coins to customers, so I round up the change I give to the nearest nickel, to avoid dealing with all the useless cents. According to the head of the mint, the truth (which most of us don’t know and really don’t care about) is that it actually costs us as taxpayers nearly twice as much to make pennies as they are worth. Factor in the fact that at least half of all those pennies ends up in a coffee can or piggy bank somewhere and the cost skyrockets to almost four cents per penny. You pay for that! But let someone in the government suggest that we should stop making pennies and over half of the population gets misty-eyed and insists that we have to keep the worthless pieces of zinc and copper coming. We’ve always had pennies (at least in our lifetime). We know they’re worthless. Yet, we bend over to pick them up on the sidewalk. We waste precious seconds every time we are at a checkout counter fishing in our pockets for them. Those of us in retail business have to buy more pennies at the bank than any other coin to have enough to give out as change. A penny won’t buy anything, won’t fit any gumball machine in service today, and actually costs more than it will ever be worth, but still we pay the price. I think I’d rather have a chocolate bar with air holes in it!
Sometimes, we are cheated out of our hard-earned resources; sometimes we cheat ourselves. Either way, we’ve been cheated. We’re proud of our thriftiness; our favorite stores tell us that if we save money, we’ll live better. But, what if the items we’re saving money on are themselves a waste of money? And, make no mistake…the places we shop are full of items which have no realistic value whatsoever. Again and again, we take the bait, swallowing it all, believing that we’re buying happiness when in fact, we’re buying junk.
What kind of economy do you and I live in? Have we surrounded ourselves with things that matter? Is there any real value to what we consume? Do you think I’m still referring to the things we can buy in a department store?
Things are not always as they seem. The man who recently stood in front of me with the guitar he had bought in another shop was proud of his purchase. His intent was as much to show off his prowess as a smart shopper, as to have me tell him the age of the instrument. What I told him was that I could give him the manufacture date which was indicated by the serial number, but that it would do him no good, since the guitar was a fake. He was crushed. It was a pretty instrument, with all the right markings. Those facts didn’t alter the certainty that he had been duped. Sometimes, what we believe we can be sure of turns out to be patently false and a complete sham.
Don’t sell me air and tell me it’s chocolate. Don’t give me a worthless coin and tell me it’s money. And, don’t show me the highway to hell and tell me it’s the Stairway to Heaven. I’m learning to recognize the difference.
“You say ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and don’t need anything.’ Instead you are wretched, pitiful, and poor; blind and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you will be rich; white clothes to wear, so that you will no longer be naked; and medicine for your eyes, so that you may have sight.”
“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying the stairway to Heaven.”
(“Stairway to Heaven”~Led Zeppelin [Robert Plant & Jimmy Page]~ca. 1971)