Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Annoying Ubiquity of Television

Not long ago, just after church, I took my wife and daughter out to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. We have often gone to this particular place in the past and have always enjoyed the good quality of the food, the decent prices, and the friendly staff. But today, my lunch was disturbed by the looming presence of a large, flat-screen television hanging menacingly from the ceiling just a few feet from our table.

The lunch itself was very nice (I had a beef chimichanga, in case anyone cares) and the staff was delighted by the cuteness of my eighteen-month-old daughter Evelyn. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not avoid the grim stare of the television, which seemed like some electronic beast from George Orwell's worst nightmare.

For some reason, the television was tuned to a station featuring nothing but infomercials. The first one apparently was advertising some kind of new dog leash that doesn't choke the animals during walks. The second was for an apparently revolutionary bra design, though its exact virtues were completely lost on me. The two infomercials repeated several times throughout the course of our lunch. Mercifully, the sound was off, though someone had unhelpfully turned the closed captioning on.

Another television was hanging in a different part of the restaurant, tuned to the same infomercial station. None of the patrons appeared to be watching, which led me to wonder exactly why the televisions were on in the first place. More importantly, why were the televisions even there at all? I can understand why a sports bar would need televisions in order to show games, but why would an ordinary Mexican restaurant need one? I eat out to enjoy good food and good conversation; if I wanted to watch television, I would have stayed at home.

I am reminded of the opening scene in Blade Runner, featuring gigantic blimp-like aircraft hovering over a dystopian Los Angeles as they pummeled the people with advertising using blaring speakers and beaming lights. Television is ubiquitous and increasingly difficult to avoid. Restaurants, airports, the waiting rooms of doctor's offices, even in elevators. Wherever people are, someone seems to want to deploy a television, turn it on, and crank up the volume.
This makes no sense to me at all. It's as if we have collectively decided as a society to position gas generators in every room designed to release nasty and rotten odors every few minutes. One would hope that we wouldn't put up with that. Perhaps one day we'll learn not to tolerate the unwilling ubiquity of televisions, either.

No comments:

Post a Comment