The world is too much with us. Telephone marketing interrupts our dinners. (The hucksters purposely call at mealtime, thinking they are doing us a favor by not interrupting TV prime time.) Waitresses want to give orders, not take them. Ted Turner, the cable news entrepreneur, has figured out how to make money on us while we stand in line. Everyone, it seems, accepts the thesis of Alan Dershowitz' new best-seller, that "Chutzpah" is "the American way."
Some months back, a pregnant woman was refused a strawberry daiquiri because servers thought she might damage her developing baby. Now the notion that servers should monitor their patrons has expanded from health to taste. In Berkeley, Calif., a waitress commanded a customer to put away his Playboy magazine because it offended her. A noisy ruckus quickly erupted between self-appointed champions of women and of free speech (or free reading), culminating in a Playboy "read-in" at the diner where it all started.
Ted Turner's brainchild, coming soon to a grocery store near you, is a sinister cousin of Chris Whittle's Channel One scheme to put educational television into classrooms, together with commercials to pay for it. Mr. Turner wants to take advantage of the captive audiences queued up wherever service is slow. Television receivers placed at these choke points would invade the customers' private reveries with lite news, celebrity gossip and -- naturally -- commercials. At least 40 percent commercials, according to news reports.