Friday, September 23, 2011

Right After These Words

I know four phone numbers. That's all. One is my current number, one is the number that served the Harris household so long and so well in Bethel Park, and one is the number that served another generation of Harrises for twenty years or more in Ashtabula. All the phone numbers I need these days are stored in my phone. When it goes, the numbers will go with it.

"Wait a minute," those paying attention are saying. "You said you know four numbers and you listed three. What's the other one?"

The problem is, I'm ashamed to say I know the remaining number. It is further proof, as if any were needed, that of the bumper crop of information I took in as a lad, all the wheat is gone and only the chaff remains. The fourth phone number on the tip of my tongue:

"Ding-a-ling-a-ling, give Roth a ring:/ Emerson-two-two-eight-oh-oh./ Mr. Roth is Mr. Rugs,/ Emerson-two-two-eight-oh-oh."

You see, far too much of what I know, or at least what I remember, I picked up during commercial breaks. Once a week or so, in quiet moments when I'm alone, I'll sing, "It's delightful, it's de-lovely, it's DeSoto." Chrysler stopped making the car fifty years ago, but the commercial still bangs around in my head. Dad used to sing old commercial jingles now and then, but he never sang about Hupmobiles.

Like topsoil on a hillside during a rainstorm, my valuable knowledge is eroding. And what remains is useless.

"Winston tastes good Like a cigarette should. / Winston gives you full flavor,/ Full, rich tobacco flavor. /Winston's easy drawing too,/ The filter lets the flavor through."

At the time, very few people were worried about the possible link between smoking and cancer. But the English mavens were up in arms because the ad writers ignored the rules of proper English usage. It should be, they said "Winston tastes good as a cigarette should." No one listened, of course, and now "like" is like the most like overused word in like the whole like English language.

The Pirates were on TV from time to time back then, and it's hard to forget Bob Prince. "How sweet it is!" "We had 'em all the way," and "You can kiss it goodbye." Beyond that, what do I remember? Not much besides this:

"Atlantic keeps your car on the go. /For business or pleasure, /In any kind of weather, /Atlantic keeps your car on the go, go, go./ So keep on the go with Atlantic."

Voice 1: Hey, Mr. Culligan man. Voice 2: You'll find him under water in the Yellow Pages.

And you'll find me drowning in a sea of commercials.

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