I have a bone to pick with Billy Mays. You may know him – like Daniel describes him – as “the yelling guy”. He shows up on commercials, day and night, on various cable channels (including – for some reason – Nickelodeon). The first couple of times I saw him, it reminded me of the old Ronco commercials of my youth. There was always some hopeless housewife who not only could not walk and chew gum at the same time, she also couldn’t cut a carrot, fry an egg, or even dial the telephone without collapsing into a heap on the kitchen floor and requiring urgent medical attention. Luckily, Ronco had a product to assist the generally challenged and life was good.
These days, Mr. Mays pitches everything under the sun, from fondue kits to cleaning supplies. Daniel extols their virtues at dinner time after a long hard day of watching television.
“And it makes a great gift,” Daniel finishes. I wanted a Mr. Microphone when I was about Daniel’s age because the idea of broadcasting my voice over the radio just seemed so amazing. I got it one year for Christmas and it had a broadcast range of about four feet. When you are four feet from a radio turned up loud enough to hear what you’re saying, all you get is a lot of feedback. Quality control was apparently not a priority at Ronco; Mr. Microphone passed away after less than a week of squealing static. Not my definition of a “great gift”.
I tried to be non-committal about it at first when Daniel would go on and on about the latest wonder gadget. Then, I explained to him that commercials didn’t always tell all the truth. However, my quiet recitations were no match to the sonic bombardment of Billy Mays. Over the weekend, I finally had it. I was coming downstairs for lunch and Daniel was waiting for Sponge Bob Square Pants to come on. Nickelodeon airs it about fourteen times a day, but that still gave Billy Mays time to hawk the Slider Station. Daniel grabbed me in the kitchen, explaining I had to see what it was all about.
After being accosted by my own television set for a moment, I picked up the remote from the end table and showed it to Daniel.
“HERE WE HAVE A GREAT NEW PRODUCT TO HELP YOU GET TO THE TELEVISION YOU LIKE MOST!” I explained loudly. Daniel started to laugh. “THE NEW REMOTE CONTROL HAS A WAY TO SKIP THROUGH ALL THE COMMERCIALS AT A TOUCH OF A BUTTON!” I pointed to the screen at Billy Mays. “SEE THIS GUY?! IF YOU DON’T WANT TO WATCH HIM, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS HIT THE ARROW AND –” I skipped ahead thirty seconds. “HE’S GONE!”
Daniel giggled. “But what happens when I can’t do that because it’s live?”
“IT HAS ANOTHER GREAT FEATURE!” I explained, “WHEN YOU CAN’T SKIP BILLY MAYS, YOU JUST HIT THIS BUTTON –” I pressed the red button at the top of the remote. “AND THE TV TURNS OFF!”