Brooklyn Boro

If I only had a brain

February 3, 2023 William A. Gralnick
Head shot of writer William Gralnick
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“Big Lou is just like you. He’s on meds too!” So croons a happy-to-lucky voice trying to convince you that even if you are old and sick, Big Lou can get you term life insurance. This is emblematic of commercials being an agent in the dumbing down of America. I live in the land of geckos, south Florida. I’m used to them. I’m also insulted that Geico is betting that America will buy automobile insurance from one. Even worse is Doug and his idiot Emu trying to do the same for Progressive Insurance. I can’t deal with Liberty Mutual’s certainty that I will buy insurance from an actor who can’t remember his lines or All-State’s Mr. Chaos. Do we really have to make our point by showing stupid driver tricks?

Flo and her band of rate robbers? Send them back to the minors.

The commercials from Big Pharma, I think, are dangerous. First, have you noticed that every disease has been reduced to three letters of the alphabet? Fortunately, each disease gets its own letters… This makes each illness seem somewhat trivial, that a person in a white coat can beat it, usually just a person in a white coat, rather than a real doctor or pharmacist. Just call this number…or ask your doctor to prescribe it…or run out and buy some of it. More dangerous and dumb, still are the commercials that tout the healing power of a product, ascribing certification from someone or somewhere, and end with the disclaimer that the product won’t cure anything. In fact, it might even kill you. There are still some disclaimers around that are spouted by fast-talkers who are finished before your brain has digested the first three words they’ve said. There ought to be a law. Actually, these fast talkers are used to skirt a law mandating disclaimers. The law doesn’t mandate how they are to be said or written (most seniors like me need a magnifying glass to read written disclaimers, the print is so small), just that they be said.
A new player on the screen is an owl selling us an antihistamine. I suppose one is wise to take it.

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The line that really sets my teeth on edge is this one: “Don’t take this product if you are allergic to it.” Since the product is a compound of products it seems highly unlikely to me that one would know if one were allergic to any of them, unless of course you took it and had an allergic reaction—which could kill you. Be owl-like on that one.

Pity the poor shmegegge who just wants a car that will go from point A to point B while providing safety and comfort. Isn’t there a better way than taking the word of a cop who investigated a non-lethal crash, remarking that if it weren’t for this car brand, the passenger would be dead? It may well be true that the safety measures of a brand are life savers. It is also true that most models in the same class have the same ones. Then there is the assumption that we need to see the destruction of cars and crash dummies to be convinced about a particular car’s merits. Check out the speeds at which tests are done. You’ll find they are at the lower ends of crash scenarios. They don’t show cars running sixty or seventy miles an hour into cement walls. You have to look at them at crash scenes on the highway to see what happens when two cars run into each other, and there are cops and ambulances and firetrucks and a side show’s worth of flashing lights to understand that speed kills, and faster speed kills faster.

Besides, why get a car that can go safely from point A to point B when you can get one that goes to the top of a mountain or splashes through a swamp? This is called up-selling. Most red-blooded Americans want to do those things, but most don’t. It reminds me of the senior-looking guy I saw driving a Hummer. C’mon! Yet it works. One large SUV is consistently given “I love my car!” ratings, while rating agencies like Consumer Reports consistently rate it as one of the least reliable cars on the road. But, I suppose, the driver feels so cool sitting, yet again, in the service line at the dealership.

And let’s measure the reality of air travel against the commercials selling it. Need I say more? Sure. What about the pilot who announces to the passengers that he’s landing early to take advantage of a new cell phone deal? I’m grinding my molars.

I had an air conditioner technician in the house the other day. A jolly fellow was he, jocular and good-spirited. He realized he didn’t bring in a needed part and quoted the Wizard of Oz’s Straw Man saying, “If I only had a brain.” The folks on what we used to call Madison Avenue are banking on the fact that we don’t have one. I asked a dearly departed friend, one of the Mad Men, if my perception was true. His response? Absolutely — even more so.

As a nation, our growing inability to deal with anything other than sound bites is like brain rot. Issues like the economy, climate change, Ukraine and even buying something beyond an Emory board take brain power. We are losing ours.

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