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It’s only a few blocks from where I live, and it’s where I’ve done most of my big-ticket and non-thrift-store shopping, so I went to Woolworth’s this morning. It's been recently remodeled. They took out their affordable diner, and I miss it. Now there’s no place in the neighborhood for breakfast on a budget, except McDonald’s and Burger King.

Worse, Woolworth’s spent most of their remodeling budget on video screens. They’re all over the store now, blasting infomercials at the shoppers. I counted: there are 28 screens, all running ads. Browse through housewares, and a video screen above your head will blabber about what you should buy to prevent burglaries. Walk by the candy section, and you’ll get a commercial for jelly beans. In the kids’ and toys areas, they’re running ads for Disney’s Lion King. On and on, everywhere in the store, there’s no escaping the ads that talk to you.

If that’s not enough (and believe me, that’s enough), there’s also piped-in Muzak with a pre-recorded disk jockey between the tunes, making smooth-voiced announcements of what’s on sale in which aisle. Ads on screens, and ads over the PA system in the background. Woolworth’s was never a church or a library, and they exist to sell me stuff, but please turn off the noise and let me shop in peace.

I am perhaps somewhat sensitive to advertising. Ads piss me off. It amazes me that there are people who could walk in to Woolworth’s, have all those ads in their eyes and ears for the whole time they’re in the store, and somehow don’t find it nauseating.

Advertising is mind control. That’s not even an exaggeration — it’s all about planting an idea in your brain, and the idea is: Buy this stuff. Well, I will buy the stuff I need, but probably not at Woolworth’s any more. I don’t willingly entrust control of my brain to a discount department store, or to anyone else.

When I buy the daily paper, I need to immediately find a trash bin for the Circuit City circular, and the fat flier advertising the big sale at the department store where I work. I’m rarely interested in the classified ads, so another thirty pages go straight into the trash. If it’s the Sunday paper, there are more pages to throw away than to read.

I don’t subscribe to magazines any more, because when they arrive they reek of stinky-water ads that putrefy my hands and my home, make my eyes water, and make the entire magazine unreadable. If there’s not a scented perfume ad, I’ll still have to flip through page after page of ads for cars and booze and jeans and cigarettes and high-tech crapola, while several loose ‘blow cards’ flutter out of the magazine and onto the floor.

On TV the commercials are hypnotic, so even when you know you’re being brainwashed it takes will-power to shut off the volume or avert your eyes. Even a week after seeing the ad you’ll catch yourself subconsciously singing the jingle.

Radio commercials are equally idiotic, but repeated much more often. The simple joy of listening to a baseball game is desecrated by the same moronic ad for the same beer every half-inning, eighteen times in every game. You’re praying to God they don’t go into extra innings and tell you again about their bottled pisswater.

Billboards are ever-present — ads along the highway, ads at every bus stop, ads on the sides of every bus, and now they have buses entirely repainted bumper-to-bumper as rolling ads. There are ads on top of every cab, rows of ads in every subway station, ads on the back of your receipt when you go shopping, and ads in your mailbox when you get home.

Of course, ads for assorted Christmas crap will begin any day now.

There are ads before the movies if you go to the wrong theater, ads on the back of the ticket you bought to get in, and ‘product placement’ during the movies.

The advertising is everywhere and it never stops. Last week I bought bananas, and in addition to the Chiquita logo there was a second sticker on every banana that said, “Try Jello pudding.” Downtown, there are poor bastards paid to hand advertisements to passers-by on the sidewalk (aha! — my job isn’t the worst job in the world).

Last year it was the Concord Jazz Festival; now it’s the Fujitsu Concord Jazz Festival.

I’ve read that there are videos for sale that include an ad for Pepsi before the movie begins.

There’s even a company trying to set up billboards on satellites, which would be unavoidably visible in the night sky.

Incomprehensibly to me, people willingly pay money to wear advertising on their clothing — a Nike swoosh, a Jeep logo, whatever. I see so many people wearing BUM Equipment t-shirts, and I don’t even know what BUM Equipment is, but why would anyone wear it between their nipples? That’s not a rhetorical question — if you’re reading this while wearing some company’s logo on your shirt, I am literally asking YOU: Could you please explain why you do that?

I’ve occasionally said some of this to people, and they look at me like I’m nuts, so maybe I’m the only person on Earth who feels this way, but —

Dear Corporate Planet, I will buy your crap if I need it and if I can afford it, but it will be my decision. Please pry your ads out of my mind.

♦ ♦ ♦

Well, that was a bit of a rant, I suppose. I sat down and started typing, and couldn’t stop. I'd say 'sorry' but I'm not. Ads are a pain in the ass, speaking of which, that’s what brought me to Woolworth’s this morning. My hemorrhoids have been flaring up for the past few weeks, and the big W sells an affordable knockoff of Preparation-H, three of which are inside me at the moment.

My ‘roids have been with me for fifteen years or so — about as long as I’ve been working in offices, which makes sense. I’ve read that hemorrhoids are caused by too much sitting around and not enough activity, and that’s me — I’m the big fat guy who sits on a chair all day at work, and then comes home and sits on a chair all night typing about his day. For fun, sometimes I go to a restaurant and sit through a meal, and then go to a cinema and sit through a movie. I’m a heavy sitter, so I have hemorrhoids.

What I’m wondering is, should I continue to endure the hell of hemorrhoids, or instead endure the hell of trying to get an appointment with Kaiser Permanente? (And what does ‘Kaiser Permanente’ mean anyway? It ain’t English. The Kaiser was a German dictator, and ‘permanente’ obviously means forever. So Kaiser Permanente wants a German dictatorship that never ends? They’re Nazis!)

I once saw a specialist about my ‘roids — a proctologist. Dr Proctor stuck his finger up my butt, which wasn’t pleasant, and then crammed a periscope up there and took pictures suitable for framing. He told me that my hemorrhoids were very minor, nothing to worry about. And he recommended Preparation-H, which, of course, I was already using.

Well, I don’t need to pay another co-pay to endure another proctoscopic examination and again be told to use Preparation-H, so I guess I’m not calling for an appointment. I’ll just keep walking with that peculiar limp.

From Pathetic Life #3
Saturday, August 6, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

 

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