Thursday, June 21, 2007

No Place is Safe

So I'm pumping gas this morning and I see a strange little speaker mounted onto the front of the pump station I'm at. As I pull on the lever to start the flow of gas, a loud voice suddenly comes over it. It didn't take me long to realize that this was an advertisement. I got annoyed and looked at the speaker to see if there was a way I could turn it off. I saw a Mute button and thought to myself, "That's a nice courtesy at least." I pressed it....it didn't work.

At this point, I got really mad. I began to repeatedly shout "Shut up!" at the speaker, unwittingly sounding like Bill O'Reilly whenever he's losing an argument. As other drivers gave me strange looks, I finally opted to press my hand over the speaker itself, effectively drowning out all the sound. When my hand stopped vibrating, I knew I had won. The ad was over, and I had not retained any of it.

I stopped to wonder why this had pissed me off so much. There's a simple reason and a broader reason. The simple reason is that normally pumping gas is a quiet experience. If you're alone, it allows for a few minutes of relaxed thought. When you're already dropping 40 frickin' dollars to fill up the gas tank of a little Cavalier that once only required 20-25, the last thing you want is for a loud annoyance invading what little personal space we have left in our lives.

And that leads into my larger point: Throughout my twenty-three and a half years of life, I've seen advertising becoming more and more invasive. It used to be that commericals were the price you paid for watching TV or listening to the radio. These sponsors paid for the programming, and so you have to hear their two cents. That's at least fair. Now it's almost the reverse: ads are shoving their way into entertainment that we pay for. A $10 movie ticket now means you have to sit through fifteen minutes of commericals. The internet service you pay for every month is now constantly interrupted by insipid ads popping up in your face....and apparently, you can't even pump gas without having something pitched at you.

Several months ago, Matt and I put on a DVD of Full Metal Alchemist episodes during a lazy afternoon at my house. There were previews at the beginning of the DVD, so my finger went for the "Menu" button. Didn't work this time. Neither did the button that skips to the next scene. Not even the damn fast-forward button was working. The same "This operation is not currently permitted by disc" or whatever that message is kept popping up. We were essentially being forced to watch this commerical.

I wouldn't stand for it. I muted the TV and stared at the ceiling for several minutes until I knew it was over. I won't have my arm twisted into watching/hearing more corporate bullshit when I paid for entertainment....and the next time that speaker starts going while I'm pumping gas, I won't shout at it, but I will again firmly place my hand over it.

I hope others do the same.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I would just tune it out myself. It is ridiculous how much time per day is spent looking or listening to ads. I guess that is the price we pay for our hypercapitalistic society.