by Lee Ann Bledsoe
CAMERA FOCUSES in on an old woman sprawled on her living room floor.
“Help me! Help me!” she cries. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Camera zooms in to capture the woman’s tear-stained face. She looks needy and helpless as she grovels on the floor. For God’s sake, I think, put her down! Euthanazia. A club. Find a zombie. Anything to get the whining to stop!
CAMERA PANS the room and captures the terrified faces of two young children as they run to grandma’s side. “Grandma, grandma, are you okay?” the youngest one cries.
Grandma repeats: “Help me! Help, me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” The kids already know she’s fallen; grandma’s on the fucking floor for God’s sake! Evidently the old woman wants her grandkids traumatized for life as well as terrified in this moment.
Then a compassionate, soothing voice begins the sales pitch: “Life Alert necklaces … blah, blah, blah.”
I absolutely DETEST commercials that prey on our fears to sell stuff. So can you imagine how pissed I am that I’m probably going to have to buy a device that advertises to the world I’m so old and feeble I need a team of experts to help me survive my next fall?
I fell tonight. Two of my great grandkids were with me: Chrissy is three and James Mervin is 18 months. I tripped over Fancy Puzzles, a cat who lives with me but belongs to someone else. (Fancy’s another story.) Anyway, Chrissie was terrified. She panicked and screamed, then cried for 30 minutes. I felt horrible for scaring her so badly. And I wasn’t even hurt.
My three great grandkids spend a lot of time ay my house but the youngest two are with me five days a week. I don’t mean to brag–or maybe I do–but I am the best great grandmother on the planet. What would happen if I had hurt myself? What would happen if I had a stroke? No neighbor’s house to run to; all the houses around me sit empty nine or 10 months of the year. My internet and phone (a landline) are out as much as on during the stormy season.
Maybe I should get another cell phone? I have seven or eight of the damn things now, sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk. My kids and grandkids keep buying them for me. I’m always grateful for the new device; absolutely thrilled to own a gadget that would allow everyone in the world to reach me, anytime of the day or night, anywhere I might happen to be. I can’t imagine anything more intrusive. How do people stand it? Nevertheless, I thank the kids sweetly, play around with the latest phone until the battery dies, and then add it to my growing collection. But I might have to reconsider; can a three-year-old kid use a cell phone? Or should I order one of those Life Alert necklaces? At this point in my life, I’d rather fitted for Depends.
Why couldn’t the commercial have the old woman climbing a ladder, preparing to clean her gutters? I do that twice a year. She could fondle the necklace, look squarely into the camera and say in a strong voice: “This will come in handy if I fuck this up.”
I could buy into a commercial like that.
Lee Ann Bledsoe says: “I was a fairly successful professional writer 100 years ago working as a columnist for “The Oregonian” and “The Columbian,” writing humorous verse for several greeting card companies, and freelancing for “Alcoholism” and “Health” magazines. Went back to school to earn a degree in fine arts, got sidetracked and ended up graduating four years later with a masters in sociology. For the next three decades I worked in community mental health, specializing in the DMIO (“dangerously mentally ill offender”) population. Fun group. One of those guys took a real dislike to me in May of 2011, effectively ending my career and the bleeding heart phase of my life. I’m extremely grateful he didn’t end me, as well. Now I’m writing again. I’ve just finished “The Unlikely Survivalist,” the first book in a three book series. Other than that, I hate liver–even smothered in onions–love dogs, gardening without gloves, reading and writing.”