Something strange has happened to me. Last week my daughter and I headed to the Mall of America for some back to school shopping and this past weekend the kids and I went to Six Flags for a last hurrah before school starts. Either situation thrust me amongst more people than I have been around in a long time, but the two combined was sensory overload. I did not realize how commercial the world was until I removed myself from it. I am not saying that I have become a hermit. I was all over this summer... weekly trips to the farmers' market, cooking demonstrations, organic farm tours, thrift store shopping, the library, a play, organic milk rally, town hall meeting with Secretary of Agriculture - Tom Vilsack, rides on the bike trail, charity events, screening of Food Inc, the list goes on and on. I think I have been in ignorant bliss, living in an alternative world where there are no commercials or advertisements, free from the marketing onslaught of reality.
These past few weeks have been an eye opener. I used to love the mall - I worked there for six years. The sights, sounds, and smells were of comfort, like a second home. Now they make me want to run for the exit to breathe fresh air and clear my head. All those people milling about... like rats in cage. The salespeople either ignore you, are disgruntled that they have to deal with you, or cling to you like a cheap suit. It made me miss the farmers' market where the "salespeople" greet me by name and always have a smile. It is a different kind of familiarity that I am accustomed to, unlike the chatter of the mall. I am dreading the month of November when my farmers' market shuts down for the year and I have to return to the supermarket for food. The cold aisles, bright lights, tinny music, and beep beep beep of the checkout scanner do not appeal to me at all.
Then there was our trip to Six Flags this weekend. That was a marketing slap in the face er, punch in the gut. I felt like a prisoner undergoing a brainwashing experiment. Everywhere I turned was an advertisement of one sort or another. Giant banners everywhere with brands emblazoned on them. Commercials blasted over the airwaves. Multiple televisions positioned at every angle to assault you while waiting in line - Have you ever tried watching nothing but commercials for an hour? Even the rides themselves were sponsored by a product - Do I really need to read about ketchup while on The Demon? At one point while waiting in line I noticed a girl using sign language and thought how lucky she was to be deaf. Terrible, I know! Even the gas station on the way home had a television atop each pump. I purposely pay at the pump to avoid the store and all the products in it, now I cannot even do that. At least when they were static signs I could choose to look the other way. It is harder to ignore when it is blasting in your ear. I felt completely violated.
Returning home I breathed a sigh of relief like no other. Ahhhh..... Quiet. The occasional commercial may drift in during an episode of 'Drop Dead Diva' or in-between songs on the radio, but only because I choose to allow it. I am in control of my home. I have stopped nearly all junk mail, removed myself from all catalog mailing lists, signed up for the no-call registry, and know how to use the power button on the remote control. As far as the outside world, the best I can do is choose to not put myself in those situations. Pay at the pump, shop locally-owned boutiques, become a thrifter, use the library, meet the people who grow your food at the farmers' market, let nature be your entertainment, and so on.
I was happy in my ignorant bliss, as people usually are, only this time a dose of reality was a different kind of wake up call. One that had me craving more of the same, reaffirming my alternative lifestyle. Obviously marketing cannot be avoided - life is like the longest running infomercial. What is featured in yours?