Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Price Is Right

Come On Down!

I have some dear friends. I have known them for a long time. They are a bit 'odd', but aren't we all in some way? They recently moved way out into the suburbs. They 'upgraded' and bought a new house on the fringe of the Phoenix-Metro area. It is one of those Mc-Mansions, 5,000 square feet, two stories, beige and looks like every other house in the neighborhood. In retrospect, they paid way to much for it and are now probably upside down on their mortgage like so many folks in these troubled economic times.

The reason they got the bigger house wasn't for better schools or more room for their kids or a better neighborhood. The primary reason was that they needed more room for all their 'stuff'. They don't have any children and only a grandmother lives with them. They are collectors and they tend to horde a lot of the stuff they buy. And they buy a LOT of stuff. So much so, that they have Garage Sales once or twice a year just to keep the house from bursting at the seams. They are the perfect picture of the economic engine that drives our economy. Material wealth = Personal Happiness. We don't see each other much since they moved out into the fringe of the 'burbs'.

Several years ago, they asked me if I could digitize a VHS video tape they had which they wanted preserved. It was getting worn out from continuous playing and they wanted to keep the memories alive. It was that important to them. Since I have the equipment and know-how to do this sort of thing I agreed.

What is on the video tape?, a wedding?, a first birthday?, the last pictures of their parents?, nope...none of those things. It is a video tape of the husbands crowning achievement in life. His stint on the television game show, "The Price Is Right". I burned this video tape to DVD back in 2001 and gave them several copies.

They called me again last week requesting that I make some more copies of the video tape. It seems that of the two copies I left them (one for showing, and one for safe-keeping), the showing one had worn out (they had played it that much) and the one for safe-keeping.....well, it has been lost in all the clutter of their house and they don't know where it is. So they dropped off the video tape and requested that I spend another 13 hours burning it down to DVD for them 'again'.

Watching a 15 year old television game show (over and over as I was editing out the commercials and creating DVD menus) is an interesting experience. We all looked much younger back then, dressed differently and had different mannerisms. But what really sort of grabbed me was the attitude of the studio audience / contestants as they babbled and laughed and jumped up and down at the possibility of winning a new Microwave or a new car. The sense of gimmie-gimmie-gimmie was overwhelming. These were adults acting like children let loose in a 'Toy-R-Us' with their parents credit card.

I suppose I might have been like this once. But not anymore. I realize now, that all that 'stuff' was really worthless. Most, if not all of it now resides in a landfill somewhere, or stuffed into the back room of a house somewhere. Mementos of a by-gone victory with Bob Barker and his game show beauties in attendance. My sense of memory and value have changed quite a bit over the years. The things that took hard work and perseverance to accomplish are what I want to recall. The things I struggled for that taught me important lessons. Guessing the right price of a refrigerator back in 1995 just doesn't cut it for me.

But such is not the case with my friends. It appears that they want to re-live this moment in their lives, over and over. Sometimes I wonder if they are 'stuck' in their lives. Reliving past good times instead of creating new ones. I think a lot of people are stuck in that same loop.

One final note about the video. I cut out all the commercials in the final DVD, and lumped them as a final chapter after the game show. Looking at a 20 minute block of commercials from 20 years ago is pretty sobering. One thing that was noticeably absent from daytime commercials back in the 1990 are advertisements for personal injury attorneys. There weren't any. Also missing are any advertisements for prescription medication. The only drugs advertised were antacids for upset stomachs and aspirin. All over the counter stuff. And food, a lot of advertisements for food and bathroom cleaners. Watch daytime television these days in any major metropolitan city and you won't see any of these types of advertisements.

Clicking the graphic at the top of the blog will take you to the condensed clip of Vern on "The Price Is Right". If you want to see Vern redeem himself and go on to win it all, click here.