I physically exercise at the Treme Center most mornings (I haven’t seen you there yet) while Girlfriend swims. Usually the telly is on and I watch My 600-lb Life, Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, I’m Keeping the Baby, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, or different so-called sitcoms, where attractive and/or overweight couples make fools out of each other between commercials. Needless to say, I am mesmerized.
Commercials at that time of day appear to be mostly about which injury lawyer you should get in touch with when you want that $300,000 settlement: “One call, that’s all”; “Call the strong arm”; “Put the Womack on them”; “Before you accept a quick check…” and/or those two big guys (with easy-to-remember phone numbers) who you would want on your side in a barroom brawl. They are ALL very trustworthy, and it would be hard to pick one over another.
If you’ve ever watched the tube in the afternoon, there are the soaps or the talk shows: Ellen, Kelly, Steve, The Chew, The View, or Doctor Oz. You’ll notice that the commercials tend to be about gadgets where, “But wait! If you act now…” seems to be a major part of the schtick; you might notice them wedged between those commercials for great time-saving cleaning supplies and adult diapers. There begins the daily spin on pain medications and allergy-relief product hypes; these you know are only setting you up for the prime-time pill-pushers, the real “ask your doctor” drug companies. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Here come the 6:00 news and updates on the political debacle that keeps us enthralled/dumbfounded, and the interruptions by pharmaceutical companies that test your hypochondriac tendencies by asking you to decide if you are nervous, constipated, depressed, sore, impotent, run-down, addicted to smoking, arthritic, inflamed, irritated, have fibromyalgia, or if your bladder leaks. If so, get your MD to prescribe Entyvio, Chantix, Crestor, Humira, Celebrex, Lyrica, Cialis (for daily use), Xarelto, or Taltz; they’re all good for coughs, colds, sore holes, and will put hair on anything but a cue ball.
And all come with side effects that read like the seven circles of hell: dizziness, blurry vision, suicidal thoughts (or actions?), diarrhea, upset stomach, sleeplessness, infections, tuberculosis, blood in your phlegm. Burning when you urinate, fever, weight loss, heartbreak, and the ever-dangerous erection that lasts more than four hours—all can be yours if you take a chance on the snake oils that are out there. Which would you rather have, the disease or the cure?
Prime-time tube-watching has you in the operating room with gorgeous surgeons, fighting fires, riding in ambulances, solving crimes (including cold cases), dodging bullets and explosions, and falling in love, accompanied by suspense, mystery, and the laugh tracks that tell you when the punch line has been delivered. I have to tear myself away.
Nowadays, you can get the choice of 1,500 channels with IPTV. You can buy it or download it for your Android, get service, an additional keyboard, AND secret decoder ability—and no commercials!
My family didn’t own a television set until I was 12 years old; we would have to get invited to the neighbors to watch anything—there were four channels.
The set we got was a Motorola, 24-inch, black and white, and it cost a whopping $55—a lot of money in those days. It was a ponderous beast with tubes that lit up and had what we called rabbit ear antennas. It needed to be adjusted to pick up a signal and there were dials to fine-tune the vertical and horizontal signals. I could not keep my eyes off it. These were the days of variety shows, Western adventures, reruns of ancient films, and commercials for cigarettes, Halo Shampoo, and Ajax cleanser. Dial Soap, Alka-Seltzer, Shredded Wheat, Ovaltine, and Nestlé chocolate.
In those days, television sets went on the fritz, and it was a DIY fix as you took out offending tubes and tested them at a nearby hardware store or pharmacy. The worst thing to happen was when your picture tube blew, and then the whole set was no good and you would have to throw it out (after keeping the tubes for future sets). It was a simpler time.
But then it happened. To control my rambunctiousness, my seventh-grade teacher gave me a copy of Silas Marner and told me to read it. I had been capable of reading since before I went to school, since my older sisters loved to play teacher with me as the student, but this was different. I learned that I could also turn on the television of my mind by doing what millions had done before me—and with no commercials—open a book!
We all have our ways of chilling out, relaxing, letting the day drop from our minds like dirty underwear. Girlfriend zones out by watching television, and it’s nice to see her cares of the day take a backseat, replaced with innocuous but interesting mind candy and news worth throwing things at the set over. I, however, am addicted to the blue light of the set and can watch virtually anything from test patterns to sitcoms, commercials, and even golf or tennis. So, I need to discipline myself, like a junkie. I have my man cave with my current reading material, and I settle in each night after Happy Hour, where, when our collective programs come on, I can be summoned.
All this to tell you that distraction from daily woes is a form of meditation and very, very necessary. From booze to news, jogging to blogging, culinary to dictionary, it’s important to care for that part of yourself that needs a part of the day for submergence. Just remember to keep these things in their place and surface strong.