Dennis O’Neil: The Elevator Compulsion
So there I was, in an elevator, being stared at by these huge faces. What or who were they? Well, okay, they were elements of an advertisement trying to get me to consume something – a cable television show, I believe – and if I watched that show it, in turn, would try to persuade me to consume something else. A car? A soft drink? A set of videos that would reshape my aging corpus into a mesomorphic splendor that would make Mr. America shudder with envy? All of the above?
And what the heck were ads – big ads – doing in a hotel elevator, anyway? But, as Hunter Thompson might have said, cazart! Could these visages be, not adverts, but deities? I mean, they were outsized and their gazes did not waver and doesn’t that remind you of someone/thing – a cosmic entity, perhaps? And if so…why were they staring at me like that?
Aieee…what did I do, oh mighty avatars of whatever you’re avatars of and please forgive me for not knowing? Did I not consume enough? (In your infinitude, please remember that my wife and I paid almost fifty bucks for breakfast this morning, but maybe that wasn’t enough?) Then, woeful wretch that I am…did I have a thought? And if I did so transgress, must I wear sackcloth and ashes, or will a Duck Dynasty t-shirt suffice?
Well, maybe these hallucinatory musings were prompted by our watching Noah on the in-room video gadget. (We’re old! What did you expect us to do after dinner, go clubbing?) Or…maybe they weren’t hallucinatory. There is a certain justification for thinking this because the other thing in the elevator that your average Luddite might question was a small television screen mounted just above those face-bearing doors, where it was hard to miss if you were looking forward and it was never turned off. Granted, it was displaying The Weather Channel, which has been a favorite of mine for decades, a destination whenever I, uh…want to know about the weather. But The Weather Channel does run commercials and that makes it at least partly about consumption and money and that, dear auditors, brings us to the finger-wagging portion of the discourse. (By the way, “finger-wagging” is in the dictionary, so spare me accusations of stealing from Stephen Colbert.)
Research has shown that people primed with thoughts of money, even subliminal thoughts, tend to be more selfish than their peers who aren’t thus primed, and aren’t we lagging in science and technology and such brainy stuff and couldn’t a culture of non-cooperation be partly to blame? I mean, aren’t selfishness and lack of cooperation at least fraternal twins? And that television set: don’t continual distractions such as this deprive us of opportunities to heed whatever small interior voices are trying to generate doubts or stimulate curiosity? I don’t know. But no harm in asking.
Think I’m being grumpy now? Then don’t get me started on the plane trip!