For the Daily News
The elevator ride to the observation deck of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears) in Chicago takes less than 90 seconds. When packed like sardines in a car full of strangers, that ride to the top seemed like an etemity. You didn’t dare speak to anyone, or make eye contact with anyone. Better to just stare at your shoes and gut it out.
I am happy to report that is no longer the case. Today you can kill that time by focusing your eyes on a television screen installed above the elevator doors. Today you can watch and listen to a little cartoon character tell you all about the building and the experience you will have once you reach the top.
No doubt there was some kind of marketing research involved to justify the expense of it. A company doesn’t spend exorbitant amounts of money to install flat-screen televisions in its elevators just for the heck of it. They know a little something about human nature, and they play to it.
We humans love to be entertained, and distracted. Television can mesmerize for hours on end; sometimes for days on end. You need look no further than the hours of air time numerous news channels have devoted to a certain airplane that went missing on March 8.
“We interrupt our continuing coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 for a special bulletin. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is still missing. Authorities report that the plane may indeed be missing because it has not been seen or heard from since it was last seen or heard from on March 8. This has been a special report. We now return to our continuing coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.”
It doesn’t matter how absurd or inane the reporting is. And it doesn’t matter if most of what is reported is simply speculation and conjecture. The hook has been sunk, and viewers are being reeled in.
I’ve noticed that more and more dining establishments have installed television sets. You can now eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in front of the television; either at home or at your local restaurant. Whether you wish to interact with another human being is entirely up to you.
This information comes with a warning, however. Almost every television set I have seen in a public setting is broadcasting Fox News. It might be in the lobby of a hotel, a waiting room, or a restaurant, but it always seems to be on Fox News.
A few months before he passed away Lew Martin asked me, “Ron, do you know if a law was passed that requires Fox News be on in every waiting room? I swear it’s on no matter where I go!” I told him that, to my knowledge, no such law existed. Further, I told him that if he really wanted to stir things up, he should suggest changing the channel. Or, if he really wanted to make things interesting he should simply get up and switch channels himself.
Yea, we all know how that would turn out!
Do you want to watch Fox News or MSNBC? Do you want to watch CNN or C-SPAN? Who cares what’s on? Most of it is mindless drivel anyway. Why do we need the distraction?
For the record, I don’t have cable, dish or satellite TV. The only television I own is used to watch an occasional DVD; I don’t get a single channel or station on my set. And I don’t miss it.
What is it about us humans that we can’t stand silence? Why does 90 seconds in an elevator without noise seem interminable? Why do we willingly welcome distraction into our lives? Well, we don’t have to. Tum off your television, or take a seat away from it. Everything will be alright. Enjoy the peace and quiet.
Tomorrow would be Lew Martin’s 83rd birthday. I doubt there is television where Lew is now. And there certainly is no Fox News. And for Lew that has to be heaven!