"What the hell is happening to TV?"
And so it starts.
I crashed in the chair. You all know the chair I'm talking about. The La-Z-Boy Atomolounger. The very same chair that gives you the relaxing type of full body massage found only in the best resorts in Asia, and a few places in Tiajuana . . . oh yeah.
Aarron paid no attention to Vince as he continued to read the newspaper. Naturally that meant that I would have to address the subject.
"What exactly do you mean Vince?"
Vince was experiencing tremors throughout his entire body (except the hand that held his beer). His eye was twitching is sync with some kind of strobing effect on the TV that only he could see. Then suddenly he snapped. What I meant to say is what the hell has happened to TV commercials. I mean, granted, things have steadily gotten worse since Tampon and Douche commercials migrated from the morning soap zone into more traditional programming.
Mercedes chimed in as she poured herself another margarita. "Hey, sometimes you don't feel fresh in the evening too."
Vince continued. "As I was saying, things have gotten bad, but I want to focus on one specific topic."
"That will be the day. Let me guess, the fact that athletes hawk fast food like it's good for you, two very oxymoronic things indeed."
"No Aarron, your lawyers are still battling the clown over that one."
The Professor mumbled to himself. "But not for much longer . . . once my other plans have come to fruition."
Yes kind readers, a bitter, bitter man. "The whole Regular Strength versus plumbers Strength Draino® deal?
Vince finished his beer and crushed the can. "Not today Benson. As I was saying, what has really begun to gnaw at my pancreas is these damn collect call commercials."
Aarron threw the paper on the floor and stormed into the wet bar area. "I don't believe it Hozehead! Why do you have to obsess over every stupid little thing to minutia. They are just commercials, what is the big deal?"
Vince snapped back as the Professor poured himself a margarita as well, "Probably for the same reason you went on that rant about cereal a couple months back . . . or the whole Saturday morning cartoons deal that Benson rambled about."
. . . uhhhh.
"Okay Vince, what is your observation?"
Vince started to get up from his chair and move towards the briefing room.
"No! You will not be allowed to use audio-visual aides for this rant Vince. No chalk board, no Power Point slides and no damn pointer. Last time you did that, somebody lost an eye."
Vince huffed. "Oh for crying out loud, the doctors were able to reattach the pizza guys retina . . . besides, I gave the guy a twenty dollar tip."
Aarron folded his arms on his chest. "No A/V."
"Anyway, what is the deal with this sudden desire to encourage collect calls. After all, we are near the end of the twentieth century. Deregulation of the phone companies have brought prices so low, even bag ladies can afford it. Cellular phones are practically being given away for free . . ."
"With an initial activation fee that is. Usually an arm and a leg."
"Anyway Aarron, so with all of this, why is there suddenly this casual acceptance that it is okay to make someone else pay your phone bill. It is not as if people have always paid too much for collect calls, or they would have been hawking this crap decades ago. Even Benson's parents can get a calling card, and anybody with a third grade education can use one of those."
"Ahh, but my parents had to put down a deposit and have a ten minute a month calling limit. AT&T isn't stupid you know."
"As I was saying, why is it suddenly so cool to call collect?"
Mercedes spoke up as she polished off her drink. "I don't think anyone is trying to make it seem cool. It's not like those manipulative beer commercials where they lead you to believe that if you drink their beverage, your life will be great, women will flock to you and you will have caveat emptor to do whatever you want."
Aarron waved his finger at his girl. "You're just bitter because you didn't get that Bud bikini girl gig."
"Well excuse me for having the same size breasts that the vast majority of the women of the United States have. Those Double D girls are going to be hunched over by the time they are fifty."
"If you don't think they are trying to make calling collect seen cool, you are blind." Vince went channel surfing and within ten seconds, he found one . . . the most annoying of them all.
And suddenly everyone in the room started wincing. "Man I hate Chris Rock and I really fucking hate Phil Hartman."
For once we all agreed.
"Just look. There you have young, good looking kids somewhere between the age of 16 and 25 playing sports . . . but wait, he has to call his mom. He's about to make a critical social blunder that will force his friends to ostracize him, he's just going to dial 0 and the number. But there's Max, the old guy slinging out Beck-esque hipsterness that because of its blatant cheesiness is cool. He saves him . . . and saves others money . . . others! If he really cared about his parents, who by the way happen to be paying his way through college so he can end up getting a degree in something totally useless like Liberal Arts . . ."
"Hey! I have a Liberal Arts degree."
Aarron slid up next to me. "And look where you are now."
Vince continued after my interruption. "As I was saying, if he really cared, he would suck it down and pay for the call himself. Once again it is the current generations failure to assume responsibility for anything that isn't easy."
"I really think you are reading too far into this Vince. After all, at least these people are trying to maintain communications with friends and family, where in the past, the inconvenience of keeping in touch made us lose touch with all but the best friends and closest family members. I mean that was half the fun of becoming an adult for me. I no longer had to talk to relatives I never liked like."
"Like your inbred "kinfolk" back in North Carolina," said Mercedes.
"Or your brother," added Aarron.
"Hey, I sent Dave a Christmas card back in ninety . . . uh, ninety three."
"Oh, it's so damn hard to write, even if it's just a post card. After all, postage is still cheaper than 1-800-COLLECT. No, here's what is really happening when they prepare to make that mooch call."
AARRON: Listen, tell Leslie in casting I want a good mix of genders and races with these friends.
VINCE: They are dressed to play sports.
AARRON: Carl, get the boys in marketing to do a survey on which sport is most popular among our target group. Then have him find out which is the most popular team. Once they have done that, have wardrobe design uniforms that look similar to that team, but no too similar, we don't want to get sued.
VINCE: Friends ask guy what he's doing.
AARRON: Come on man, you're holding up the game!
VINCE: Kid tells friends that he's calling his parents.
AARRON: I don't care what it takes Gino, I want those little bastards to look like they think it's a really great thing and that they all have a real interest in this deal. You tell them if they don't, there are thousands of pimple-faced that will gladly do it for them.
VINCE: Guy nearly makes collect call the "old fashioned way" but hip adult type stops him.
AARRON: What! You tell Phil Hartman we aren't going to pay that kind of salary. He's a washed-up cast member from Saturday Night Live, he's in no position to be dictating terms to anyone.
VINCE: Max Jerome gives his speech and then cuts away to completely annoying character.
AARRON: He has to be black. And he has to talk jive, or whatever the kids are calling it today. Put him in a referees outfit or an umpires rig. But make him a clown. Can't have the big boys at AT&T seeing a Negro with power.
AARRON: Dad gets on, and being practical minded makes boy get to the point.
VINCE: Boy informs parents that he is nearly broke because his car stopped running and he lost his part-time job at the coffee house because of it. He adds that he has been real depressed.
AARRON: In reality, he and his friends were real drunk land crashed his car into the back of the Post Office, but the campus cops let him off wit a warning. He was fired from his coffee house job because lets just say, the latte wasn’t latte.
VINCE: Dad goes berserk and begins lecture to boy about money and how it doesn’t grow on trees . . . forgetting that he is paying for a collect call.
AARRON: In heart of hearts, he knows he will give the little shit the money, because if he doesn’t, wife will not have sex with him for very long time.
VINCE: Boy shows first signs of realizing that he is a loser, thanks whatever god he doesn’t believe in that his friends can’t see him.
AARRON: Father puts mom back on to get the details regarding how much and how soon. He is never good at these things. Debates for the fiftieth time since the little shit left home that he should cut off the college money and make the bastard join the military.
VINCE: Kid finished phone call, again feeling confident that he could sell his parents the Brooklyn Bridge if he had to. Joins friends playing game and makes sure everyone knows his parents love him.
"All I’m saying is people need to pay for their own phone calls.