The best thing about modern television service is the ability to excessively watch, record, and replay the five channels I like out of the hundreds we pay for.
When I was a kid, we had even fewer than the "13 channels of sh-t" to choose from that Pink Floyd so famously bemoaned. Channels 3, 6, 8, 10 & 12 were nothing but snow storms between (hopefully) clear major networks, local channels, and PBS. You could add a few more viewing options if your set picked up UHF and you spoke Spanish.
On the days when I could convince my Mom I was sick (cough, cough, puppy eyes, sniffle) enough to stay home from school, the lameness of TV was painfully apparent. By 11:00am, shows like The Magic Garden and Mr. Rogers vanished. I had to find some way of surviving the barren programming wasteland until 3:00pm, when the Joe Franklin Show and Midday With Bill Boggs would finally give way to high quality reruns of Looney Toons, Tom & Jerry, and Gilligan's Island on Channels 5, 9 & 11.
I was reminded of those old times recently while sitting patiently in the waiting room at a nearby medical clinic. The television hanging in the corner of the room was on display to entertain and distract all of us from the amount of time spent waiting. In theory, I can see how someone might think this is a good idea. In practice, however, the remote often is controlled by some sedentary secretary who obviously is in dire need of passionate romance, since these "community" televisions always seem to land on either a network soap opera or a female panel talk show knock-off of The View. In this case, the wait was long enough to capture both the the talk show and the soap opera.
As awful as it might seem, what really made the biggest impression was neither the pathetic acting and silly dialogue of the soap, nor the shrill infomercial-like pandering to guests on the talk show. By the time the wait was over, it was the commercials that really attracted my attention.
It began innocently enough with my being told exactly how white my teeth ought to be. Apparently, shiny white simply isn't white enough. I need a prescription-strength whitener, or at the very least I need to discuss the potential benefits of said prescription-strength whitener with my dentist.
Next, I learned I might need a stool softener, although I'm not 100 percent certain. The product being pitched merely talked about the benefits of exceptionally soft stool, so I guess I need to start keeping a log (no pun intended) in which I note the rigidity of my stool so I can properly assess my need for the prescription-strength stool softener when I discuss it with my gastroenterologist.
The next two went hand in hand, so to speak, since one product held out the hope of lowered cholesterol while the other promised immediate and guaranteed weight loss without the need to change my diet or exercise routine. Perhaps it would work best if I crack open both pills and sprinkle the contents like garlic salt over my next slice of pepperoni pizza. But I suppose I better check with my personal nutritionist before I make any drastic changes.
I doubt any of the products mentioned so far would have any impact on my chronic dry eyes or irritating feminine itch, so it's a good thing I kept paying attention during the commercial breaks. With any luck, my gyneopthacologist will know all about the products needed to address these problems when I go in for my annual cervical refractory exam.
And, finally, we end up with constipation. According to the product being touted by the pretend doctor in the borrowed lab coat, I should talk to my family practitioner to make sure I'm not unnecessarily suffering from uncomfortable blockages. It sure does give me a sense of relief, although perhaps not the kind I need, to know there is a relative stranger in my community who is qualified to tell me whether or not I'm having trouble pooping, and what I can do about it.
Whatever the final prognosis about my medical condition, I'm just happy to be home, where I can go back to watching my recorded Food Network and Discovery Channel shows while fast forwarding through all the commercials. I'm not entirely certain, but I think eating a handful of dark chocolate and drinking a Diet Sunkist while watching an uninterrupted episode of MythBusters has already done wonders for my colon.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler