Geri Speace
Thinking Outside of the Idiot Box


Television made me give up smoking pot. I think it started
when infomercials began to nudge their way onto my set late
at night. At first, I was stunned. “Are they actually
spray-painting that guy’s head?,” I thought in my
drug-induced daze. I resolved to at least cut down on my
consumption. But when I realized that I wasn’t
hallucinating, I became eager to see which stars had fallen
low enough to put them in the same echelon as those
loudmouths at the state fair demonstrating miracle stain
removers and extraordinary car wax. Cher? Dionne Warwick?
Tsk, tsk; I could almost remember when they were actual
superstars.

But I began to worry about myself when I would re-watch
infomercials over and over until I could amaze my friends
with my ability to recite certain dramatic lines in sync
with the demonstrators as well as “studio audience” members.
“But Ron, what about julienne fries?,” I’d over-eagerly
intone. Without dope, would I have been able to withstand
such utter crap once, let alone many times over? If I could
only reclaim those (literally) wasted hours.

The next step in my journey toward giving up marijuana was
during a commercial for Columbia outerwear. A mother dresses
a child more and more substantially as the weather becomes
progressively more foul. Toward the end of the
advertisement, the child looks outside as—could it be?—an
A-bomb is going off. Moreover, I was watching TV at the time
with a friend who had been partaking of a joint as well.
Distraught, we gaped at each other in horror. “Did you just
see that? Was that what I thought it was?” I quizzed my
friends later to see if they had witnessed this ad, which
was in abominably bad taste, as far as I was concerned. None
could recall it. It was only after seeing the spot sober
that I realized that it really showed a volcano erupting.

Then one night after getting high with some friends in front
of the set, I noticed that on the “Schoolhouse Rock” video
about Susan B. Anthony winning women the right to vote,
there were actual names written on the ballots in the
booths. Curious, I stopped the VCR and announced that the
wise creators must have inserted some kind of “in” joke.
Peering into the set, we saw candidates like Tom Yohe, Lynn
Ahrens, and Radford Stone. In my stupor, I was convinced
that these were not actual names, and that if we rearranged
the letters, or experimented with pronunciations, we would
be treated to an unparalleled level of mirth.

Several frustrating minutes of saying the names backward and
in slow motion (“Yooo-heee; Ehoy, Eeee-hoooy”) yielded no
hint as to the so-called true meaning of these names. But
when the credits rolled at the end, they unveiled to us that
Yohe, Ahrens, et. al. were the geniuses responsible for the
producing, songwriting, and the like. They had inserted
their own names! At the time, embarrassing as it is to
admit, even this was profound.

After episodes like these, I was starting to rethink my use
of illegal substances. It reached a head when I became
convinced that a Skittles spot was rife with subliminal
messages for anyone who was high. Soon, I was picking up on
similar wavelengths from a variety of other ads. I came up
with the theory that potheads were in charge of making all
of the good commercials on TV and inserting secret drug
jokes into them that only others who were stoned could
discern. Before long, after thinking this through while not
under the influence, I realized that it was simply not
rational. I decided that I must give up smoking pot or risk
becoming one of those nutty people who wander around in
their slippers with branches caught in their hair, ranting
about global conspiracies.

So I gave up dope and continued watching TV. I’m sure my
lungs are probably better off, but I eventually began to
realize I misdiagnosed the root of my troubles. I finally
canceled cable. I didn’t go cold turkey—the set still
hunkers in the entertainment center—but I’m sure I’ve been
thinking more clearly.