I was nearly killed the other day, walking through Greenwich Village — nearly reduced to my elements by a Honda Element, which in my mind would have been an addition of insult to injury, the irony notwithstanding. And though I was able to leap back curbside before I became human graffiti, this near immolation gave me pause. It hadn’t been my fault, you see. I’d been distracted — nay, hypnotized — by a picture of some particularly ripe cleavage on the side of a passing city bus.
So rather than simply breathe deeply and hold my genitals as I usually would after such a brush with death, I suddenly became very angry — angry at breasts, and the irresistible creatures from whom they dangle. More than that, I became angry at the men and women who knew that pasting the image of these breasts on the side of a bus would cause me to turn my head in an instinctual stupor, watch that bus round the corner and leave myself unguarded for the Element coming up behind me as I crossed Second Avenue.
Forget Big Brother, forget the government controlling your mind. The government doesn’t need to. They already control the rest of you, regardless of what you think about them. No, it’s the advertisers of the world who are truly infuriating. They are the ones who want your mind, and what’s more frightening is that they already know how to get it.
Yes, sex still sells. It was sex that sold the first Coke, sex that sold the first New Coke, and sex that sold the first New Old Coke, Classic. It was sex that sold the first car. (Ask your deceased relatives about the controversial Ford slogan: “Cruise the bustling streets of the roaring 20s in your own Model T! The ‘T’ is for Tail–“) It was sex that sold your grandfather the Newports that gave him emphysema and sex that sold your father the Budweiser that got him to sleep with your mother. Why, if it hadn’t been for the proven market appeal of sex — and the sex act itself, if we’re splitting hairs — you might not be here.
To this most basic mantra, you, reader, are powerless. Save for the apocalypse, the day will never come when advertisers say to themselves: “You know what, guys? I think this sex thing has finally run its course. Let’s explore some other options.” Even in the event of apocalypse, you can be sure that Gorman’s Gas Masks would unveil their new secret weapon: Samara, the half-naked (but securely masked) post-apocalypso Caribbean temptress.
And you, my mutated friend, would go right out and get yourself a Gorman, as the tag-line suggests, because you would associate Samara’s ample bosom with your need to breathe, just as I still hate myself for remembering exactly what television program the breasts on the side of the city bus were instructing me to watch: Entertainment Tonight.
Well let me tell you something, mister E.T., I will not be suckered in by your cheap cleaved ploy! I will not play the puppet to your crass commercialism! I will not be — Whup, 7:00. Excuse me–
Now that I’ve gotten my fill of Colin Farrell trivia, I will continue.
On this same trip to the salesmanship-saturated Big Apple, my younger sister had her eye caught by a Citibank billboard sporting some quasi-zen crap like “If happiness is just around the corner, turn frequently.”
“That’s really nice,” she said looking at the billboard with a benign smile like Odysseus entranced by the sirens. “I think I’ll make that my yearbook quote.”
“No,” I shouted, yanking her away and tying her to the nearest mast — in this case, a slumbering homeless man. “They want your money, don’t you see?!”
“Whatever, Greg,” my sister huffed, awakening the startled hobo. “They’re just trying to say something good.”
Screaming obscenities and gesturing wildly, the homeless fellow lit off down Canal Street, my sister still strapped to his back. This left me with some time to postulate into my notebook. (Ooh, that sounded dirty!)
They will do anything to get to you, my friends. Citibank gives you life advice. McDonald’s lures you in with nostalgia (“It’s the taste you grew up on”). Estee Lauder gives you a guilt trip, telling you all about the charities they support — the implication being that if you don’t support Estee Lauder, you don’t support cancer research. The Gap makes you into a walking billboard, Wal-Mart blackmails you into the purchase of a crock pot. Taco Bell holds your daughter hostage until you try the new chicken fiesta bowl. It will not end, ever — not as long as you have money. Even then, American Express will sell you a plastic card that gives you the illusion of money, while doing nothing but sucking your blood.
So what is there to do, aside from tracking down the hobo who ran away with your sister? Well, nothing short of self-mutilation will erase my eye for cleavage, and nothing short of Clydesdale blinders will shut out the perpetual onslaught of logos and slogans and slogos. They’ve already got you. They win. No contest. Might as well not try and fight it, unless you think you’re suited to cave ownership and residence.
Readers, there is no way to tell you how to live among the hounds in less than 1,000 words. Tie yourself to your mast of choice, buy when you must. But be aware, reader, that your life is fleeting, and precious.
The minutes you waste watching passing busses may not only shorten your life in sum-total time, but end it immediately, and abruptly, on the pavement of Second Avenue.
For we are living in a world of Honda Elements, dear readers. This is the time of SUV’s, and we are but pedestrians.
Greg Yolen is a senior in Pierson College.