Eat, drink and be merry, for there are no consequences.
For the last six weeks, I’ve been beset by a pernicious cough. Still in the throes of that cough, I visited family in Texas. While I was there, I slept on an inflatable bed for a few days only to discover one day that I had serious pain in and around my collar bone. The pain peaked with every beat of my heart and was made worse when I breathed in or coughed.
After a few hours of trying to find comfort by sleeping, walking, standing, drinking water and other stuff I can’t remember anymore, I went to a local clinic here in a Dallas, Texas suburb. The staff freaked out and thought I was having some sort of cardiac event (that was their term for it). They took an EKG. They gave me aspirin. Then they sent me to the local ER, you know, just to be sure they didn’t open themselves up to liability.
I checked in. They took my weight, blood pressure, and vitals. They hooked me up to monitors and an IV for saline solution, just in case they needed to give me a contrasting agent for a CT scan. They gave me 4 aspirin pills equal to 824 milligrams of mass, then they explained that aspirin increases the chances of survival of a cardiac event by 8%. Great.
They requested and got a blood test. Then I waited for a long time. Then they took more blood and I waited some more to learn if a blood clot was moving up or down a major artery. I was already thinking about how much this is going to cost me.
I also sent a text to my wife to let her know where I was. I let her know what was happening and how long I thought I was going to stay there. I had no idea I would not get out of there until after midnight.
As I lay there in the hospital bed, I found myself watching the Disney Channel. For what must have been 3 or 4 hours, I just watched show after show, not hearing all the words. For the life of me, I can’t remember any of the commercials. But I took several pee breaks, drank plenty of water and watched the clock, all of which I still remember now.
I was a bit bemused by the hospital experience so I had no idea that I had a choice of which channel I could watch. And as I watched each show on the Disney Channel, I noticed how nice and neatly packaged each joke was. I noticed how each scene and set of scenes fit between commercial breaks. And I wondered, who lets their kids watch this stuff at 10 pm?
Around the third hour, I finally found the remote control and started to flip through the channels. FOX. Telemundo. CNBC. CNN. TNT. Disney. Cartoon Network. HGTV. History Channel. Talking heads. Drama. Sitcoms. Commercials. All of it was packaged for consumption and was probably best consumed while one is partially incapacitated by carbohydrates and/or alcoholic beverages. You know, for maximum return on investment for the sponsors.
I thought about the aspirin, the needles, the syringes and the little cups used to provide me with nauseating Bayer children’s aspirin. You know, the kind you can chew…It all came in a package.
I started to think about everything that I ever saw in Costco (yes, I’m a fan), and how all of that is packaged for consumption. Even the apples and avocadoes are in a package. The clothing I wear was packaged for consumption. The gasoline in my rental car was packaged for consumption. The rental car was packaged for consumption. There was a vending machine down the hall from my room loaded with junk food, in a hospital, packaged for consumption.
All of that packaging has consequences. All of the items we consume has consequences when and after we consume it. Some of those consequences are good in that they provide us with conveniences we might not have without the product. And everything has a negative consequence of some kind.
When consumer items are advertised, we don’t hear about the negative consequences. In advertising, we only hear and see about how a product will make us look better, feel better, feel cleaner, go faster, go bigger, better and longer. Pentatonix nails that point right here in this video.
Advertising doesn’t tell us the negative consequences of our consumption, well, unless it is a big pharma commercial. Even then, we’re only talking side effects. Advertising doesn’t tell us what happens to car tires, used oil, used needles, wasted food, or unwanted toys and gadgets when we’re done with them.
Advertising doesn’t tell us what soap and shampoo do to the environment when it enters the sewer. Advertising doesn’t tell us how difficult it is to process toilet paper at the water treatment plant, no matter how cute those bears are. Advertising doesn’t tell us how hard it is to recycle an entire car that is no longer needed. Advertising doesn’t tell us what the chemicals in perfume do to our bodies.
Advertising is all about packaging for consumption. It is part of the package for consumption. In an ad I found in a magazine, I saw a picture of a woman holding the latest model cell phone with an exaggerated expression of glee. How could anyone be that happy about a cell phone? Even an iPhone? Advertising does not tell us how that woman’s face would look if she knew that there are millions of phones piling up somewhere, every day.
And then the doctor came in. He said that my tests were good, but that I should see a cardiologist when I returned home. As I drove back to my brother in law’s house in the wee hours of that morning, I realized that the pain I was experiencing in my collar bone was just like another pain I had when one of my ribs shifted. I think the inflatable bed I was sleeping on shifted something in my spine giving rise to the pain. A day has passed and most of the pain is gone now, and the cough is finally tamping down some.
But I’m still thinking about how everything is packaged. When I watch TV, I remind myself that if I see something advertised on TV, I probably don’t need it. That is the first assumption I make whenever I see a commercial. And that is the last.