Everyone has a pet peeve. People who drive too fast, or too slow, or fingernails scratching on a blackboard. My pet peeve is a strange one. I have a visceral reaction to the fast-talking legal-speak at the end of radio or TV commercials. I have to change stations…immediately.
You’ve all heard them…commercials that are 50% written by the legal department of the advertiser. The last 100 words are compressed into 10 seconds so you can’t say we didn’t tell you that the drug could kill you or the sale on flat screen TV’s is only for people named Arnold and only good on Tuesdays. The irony is that ads for lawyers and legal services don’t seem to require it! (But I digress)
So why do I have this reaction?
Being an untrained freelance psychologist, my deep self-analysis concludes that the advertisement is simply wasting my time and attention. There was no possible way I could ever understand anything they are saying, but they had to say it. They just wasted my time on purpose for no reason.
It isn’t only about advertising.
Granted, I am probably just going deaf as a result of listening to ZZ Top and Deep Purple in headphones in the 70’s, but I spend a good deal of my time saying, “Pardon me?” to store clerks, drive-through windows, telephone customer service people or many others I come in contact with throughout the day. So much of communication has become a “drill” as someone is required to adhere to a script and they voice the words without thinking about what they saying. If I hadn’t heard the pre-flight speech from flight attendants hundreds of times, I would have virtually no idea what they are saying. They are just happy to get through mouthing some words into a microphone. Effective communication occurs when the receiver understands.
Come to think of it, maybe I am just going deaf. Never mind.
In one of my first college communications classes, the professor used a quote from hotelier Conrad Hilton (famous great-grandfather of the infamous Paris Hilton).
When appearing on the Johnny Carson show one evening (probably in the 1960’s), Carson asked Hilton if he had a message to the American people, since there were tens of millions watching The Tonight Show each evening.
Hilton looked at the camera and in all seriousness said, “Please put the shower curtain inside the tub.”
The professor used this as an example to young Christian communicators to take advantage of opportunities. To make things count for something important.
One of my favorite old movies is Meet John Doe with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyk, released in 1941, right before America entered World War Two. Director Frank Capra crafted a story about a savvy newspaper writer (Stanwyck) using a down-and-out hobo (Cooper) to make up stories for the purpose of increasing circulation.
The scheme got away from everyone when John Doe (Cooper) delivered a simple message of caring for one another that actually resonated with millions of people and created positive change across the country. He appeared on radio and in print and started a movement. There was also a classic clash between good and evil, truth and lies and even a romance angle.
That movie would make for good discussion for media people about message, truth, clarity, simplicity and heart.
I know that readers of this blog are the proverbial choir, but once in a while it’s a good idea to be reminded that what you are doing is not trivial.
I think we’re living parallel lives, Dan. My wife claims I need my hearing checked. I say I just like to feel like the explosions on TV are happening in the the same room. I know what you mean, though. I’ve been an engineer in the Detroit auto industry for over 20 years now. I’ve listened to six foot tall egos with human body parts ramble on about nothing for more hours than I care to count. Never has a society talked so much and said so little. So yes, I take my nightime job seriously. When I write, I want to say something. In every sentence. We make our living by entertaining, certainly, but we have an obligation, as Christians, to slip the truth into our entertaining stories. I have to believe that our readers will cling to those few words of truth like a life raft in an ocean of meaningless words.
Hilarious!! Too funny. I can so relate to that pet peeve – one of mine is traffic reports on the radio. Every ten minutes!!?? Really!!?? I makes me stressed just hearing that AND grateful I am not a commuter.
Thanks for this. I have similar reactions to “communication” that is really just requirement or form or papering over moments best left to silence. Very little meditative silence, even in church. Ours is a time of legal speak covered over with media drivel. And thanks for mentioning _Meet John Doe_, a great movie. Love that it starts out as a scam for Gary Cooper and becomes something real.
Every time the gal over the intercom says, “Thank you for making my Sonic your Sonic,” I wince.
But it’s not as bad as the time when I asked for an order of mozzarella cheese sticks, and the girl asked me, “Would you like an order of cheddar bites with that?” Really, do you think I need fried cheese to go along with my fried cheese? Are they even listening to themselves speak?
Dan, loved this post. I have selective deafness when it comes to those fast talkers at the end of drug, etc commercials. My other pet peeve is all the computerized telemarketing calls. Drives me crazy.
The line that spoke most to me was your wrap up: “but once in a while it’s a good idea to be reminded that what you are doing is not trivial.” When I go into writing with this mindset, I am challenged to make sure I use the opportunities I’m given to speak (write) eloquently, hopefully saying something that either gets a reader thinking or draws him/her toward God.
Thank you for the exhortation to be purposeful in what I say—both verbally and on the written page.
…and I listened to too much Chicago in the 70s using headphones. Now I’m paying the price for my affection of loud rock and roll.
As far as movies, I also liked Meet John Doe (or anything with Barbara Stanwyk). For the record, I missed seeing its original release date by several decades!
I love your quote from Mr. Hilton. When you consider who he is, it’s hilarious. Wish I could have seen it.
Kudos to you for even mentioning the film Meet John Doe. A writer’s major goal is to elicit emotion, and the combination of screenplay and Cooper’s acting really delivers. Frank Capra ended up filming the ending several times, but eventually he got it just right.
By the way, Capra told in his biography of the day some preacher he’d never heard of came into his office and challenged him to use his influence to accomplish something good and wholesome. That unnamed preacher left a positive stamp on Capra!