Category Archives: American Foibles

Changing the Channel

Forgive the recent interruption in your regular scheduled program of nonsense; it can be blamed almost exclusively on the addition of proper television to our household. Where previously we survived on a diet of Netflix and Hulu, we are now the proud owners of 6 million pointless channels and 3 or 4 acceptable ones.

BBC America is, of course, my favourite treat. It’s a little lacking in its Russell Howard and a bit urgent in its Gordon Ramsay (and, inexplicably, Star Trek: The Next Generation), but it does keep the lads from Top Gear on my screen almost 24 hours a day.

I am also an avid fan of the ability to record almost every channel at once. This comes in handy when I can’t work out where in the channel list I’ve ended up and find myself stranded, flopping about like a helpless fish, somewhere between the pay-per-view porn and the mountain of movie channels all showing the same three films.

But what I mostly want to discuss with you people is your advertising. At first I was astonished by the pointy fingers, because in England one is not allowed to call one’s competition names in the pursuit of sales. “We’re better than [insert relevant brand]” is a definite no-no where I hail from, although I’m already sufficiently indoctrinated that I can no longer work out why.

Then I became fascinated by the content of the adverts themselves. My all-time favourite U.S. advertisement was for a Wendy’s fish fillet burger, featuring numerous helicopter shots of icebergs and glaciers, gleaming frostily in the Arctic sunshine. This did not suggest an irresistible taste experience to me; I was, rather, left wondering if fish fillets are cold and a bit crunchy.

I thought nothing could possibly top that advert for absurdity… until this week. It began innocently enough, with various shots of husbands staring lovingly at their wives as they displayed the tics and oddities with which the husbands fell in love in the first place. One wife is startled by a horror movie, for example, while the husband looks on fondly.

I believe the idea of the set-up was to advise us all to keep appreciating the little things about each other, even when many years have passed. A heart-warming sentiment, I think you’ll agree. But then the television began bellowing at me:

“AND THAT’S WHY YOU NEED TO BUY OUR ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION PILLS, SO YOU CAN KEEP APPRECIATING THE LITTLE THINGS.”

I was so surprised, both by the sudden change in direction and by Viagra being advertised on my tellybox – in the middle of the afternoon, to boot – that I burst into a giggling fit that ran unchecked for many minutes. I thought I had seen it all. I had not – but I’ve got 6 million channels now, so I’m sure I will have soon.

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Sneaky Peeking

What is this, please, and why is it there? What it appears to be, and what it functions as, is an unnecessary gap in a public bathroom door. What it’s doing there is the mystery to me.

Gap in the toilet door

I’ve noticed these gaps turning up with alarming regularity in the restrooms of stores, eating places, airports and malls, but I am assured it does not occur in the boys’ equivalent. Which leaves me with several questions, outlined here in ascending order of importance:

1) Is it there to encourage a breeze to circulate? If so, is that a good idea in a public toilet?

2) Is it supposed to provide a view in case we get bored? If so, wouldn’t a nice painting or a puzzle book suffice?

3) Is this perhaps a method to keep women abreast of the length of the queue waiting to relieve itself?

4) Am I missing out on some sort of social phenomenon whereby women are meant to wave at one another on the way for a wee? Have I spent two years being unwittingly rude to my fellow bathroom-goers?

5) Alternatively, is it considered proper etiquette to avert your gaze as you pass each stall? If so, why is there opportunity to see inside in the first place?

6) What is the etiquette once you are ensconced in a stall? Should I be making eye contact with the people wandering by?

7) Most importantly, why just the women’s restrooms? Are we considered a liability to ourselves on the toilet, necessitating viewing holes to make sure we haven’t fallen in?

Perhaps Englishwomen are more shy when it comes to bathroom activities than our transatlantic cousins, or perhaps there’s a rogue builder out there who can’t measure his doors properly. Either way, I have taken to installing an optimistic yet ineffective privacy device to preserve my modesty until someone explains to me why that gap is there and what I’m to do with it: