The other day I ran into a friend of mine and noticed he was wearing a brand-new backpack. It’s not every day you see old guys like us wearing backpacks. In fact, I haven’t worn one since I was in the army, back in the ‘60s.
“Bill, why are you wearing that thing on your back?” I asked.
“Because I have to walk around outdoors now,” he answered. “Evidently, every day, all day,” he added, a look of consternation on his face.
“What are you talking about,” I asked.
“My doctor just prescribed several drugs for me, for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, psoriasis, and something called the wrecked tile dish function,” Jim explained, fiddling with one of his hearing aids.
“I’ve seen them all, you know, those TV drug commercials. So I know what I have to do.”
It seems that Jim, who watches TV most all day, had become conditioned by those omnipresent pharmaceutical commercials. You know, the ones that spend about 10 seconds telling us what disease or condition the drug battles, and 50 or so seconds warning us about all its dire side effects while the patient is hiking through virgin forests, national parks, quaint country towns, county fairs and farmers markets.
How much more wholesome can you get?
And that’s exactly what we’re supposed to think about — the wholesomeness of the great outdoors and of the patients enjoying it, thanks to the drugs — not the litany of serious side effects and warnings being rapidly recited by the narrator like, “Stop taking this stuff and notify your physician if you begin bleeding from every orifice on your body while giddily entertaining thoughts of coldblooded murder.”
Hyperbole, granted, but my point is we aren’t paying as much attention to the words being said as we are to the alluring landscapes and other visual distractions. We are mostly visual creatures. Seeing is believing, we’ve been told all our lives.
If we are not visually impaired, we know our world through our eyes. But we are also exceptionally creative creatures. That’s why reading can be so exciting. We supplement the written words with our vivid imaginations — interpret and create our own images.
We will do that with the spoken word, too, if given no visual clues. Therein lies the challenge for the pharmaceutical companies. Imagine the frightening images you would visualize if you could only hear the string of possible side effects and warnings in those commercials. They need to distract us visually. Enter the great outdoors. Who doesn’t love being outdoors?
“I don’t!” Bill answered. “How can I watch TV all day if I’m stumbling around in the woods? By the way, what the heck is a wrecked tile dish function?”
“Do yourself a favor, Bill,” I replied as he shuffled off in search of the great outdoors, “First, you definitely need a better pair of hearing aids, and second, the next time one of those pharmaceutical commercials comes on, close your eyes.”