"Hey guys, I've got important news!" Click. The rushing sound of a waterfall from my sound machine covers the voice on the radio as I fix my cereal. The news station I listen to while I have breakfast has ads every fifteen minutes or so. Mr. "Hey Guys!" is predictably played at least once an hour, with exactly the same message each time. Unfortunately, he is thrilled to be telling me about a product I have no use for, since I don't have, as one highly educated male friend insists on calling it, a "prostrate." Mr. "Hey Guys" goes on to describe in exquisite detail all of the problems a malfunctioning "prostrate" causes, confiding them with the enthusiasm a teenager might use describing the latest episode of "Squid Game"... with barely concealed excitement. Hence, click, the waterfall. I could mute the radio with a remote but might forget to turn it back on, so a waterfall it is. Not all ads are muted; after all, they are paying for the program so I listen politely, even though I can recite them by heart at this point.
It is perhaps ironic, given the subject of the "Hey Guys" ad, that I chose the noise of rushing water to cover it, but it disguises the ads more completely than the machine's other cheerful choices of either birds, ocean or frogs. I can hear the drone of the advertising voices over the waterfall, and when I once again hear the newscaster's voice, the noise is clicked off. For now. Back to the news, weather and traffic. Time for blueberries on the cereal.
As I open my yogurt another advertiser barely holds his enthusiasm in check as he describes the unappetizing result of sinus problems. He is especially fond of the contents of one's nose, as the word rolls off his tongue with ardor, repeatedly. Click. The "sleep apnea" ad is very disturbing with its loud long desperate gasping for air, sounding like an asthma attack to many of us who have endured one. Click.
When my tea is ready, a different announcer, barely able to disguise his contempt for those needing his product, rhapsodizes about the "no shots" treatment for E.D. Don't you wonder how the parents of young children, in the room during these programs, explain E.D? I picture a 5-year-old asking his mom "why doesn't Ed need shots? Isn't he going to be vaccinated?" Um, it's not that Ed, dear, and a different shot.
Until recent years, advertisements were aspirational and inspirational; elegant, perky, attractive people urged us to remember that Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco so we could be cool too. Ladies who wore pearls and heels to cook dinner assured us that we also could have a happy life if only we used the refrigerator she was demonstrating. Slender girls pranced across the screen in the perfect leggings. We wanted to be them so we bought the products, the familiar "I'll have what she's having" pitch. Now, however, we are in what I call "The Boo-Hoo Years." If you aren't a victim of a disease, a condition, a "trigger" or affront of some sort, you can't join the conversation. Malfunctioning body parts are discussed with the same fervor that we used to ascribe only to used car salesmen on late night TV. If you aren't suffering, or talking about those who are, you aren't paying attention. You need to be a victim, or proudly consider yourself a savior of these, to be a player. The more details, the better, it seems, and as graphic as possible.
My mother would call these descriptions coarse, as did a recent article on being a considerate, well-mannered woman. But these women are out of date; I merely call it unpleasant, especially when I'm having breakfast. Either way, it's a relief that the waterfall is just a click away so I can eat without unwelcome pictures filling my head. The news is indigestible enough, one doesn't need visuals too.
And maybe tomorrow I'll listen to the frogs.
Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings Group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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