Ads say misery loves company, but what about the rest of us?


August 21, 1996|By Arthur Hirsch

The guy in the radio advertisement is talking about itchy, burning feet. If you have them, he says, "you are not alone."

It's an odd statement, made all the more puzzling by the fellow's cheerful tone of voice. What's he trying to say?

Radio and television people are always telling us we are not alone, even if we'd rather be. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that solitude in this culture is vastly underrated. Or perhaps radio and television people are running low on catchy phrases.

No doubt you've heard this sort of thing: If you are late filing your income tax return, you are not alone. If you have thickening nose hair, you are not alone. If you have dry skin patches, flatulence, chronic nasal congestion and your name is Burtram, you are not alone.

So you hear this bonehead on the radio and the thought crosses your mind: "Hmmmm. The guy says, 'If you have itchy, burning feet, you are not alone.' But I look around and see that I am alone, horribly and totally alone. Terminally single, sitting in the apartment with the cat watching gusts from the central air blow a dust ball across the floor like a ghost-town tumbleweed. And, darn it, I do not have itchy, burning feet. Wait a minute. Maybe if I did I would have company. If only I had itchy, burning feet my social life would perk right up."

Isn't that what the man said?

Perhaps not. Perhaps the phrase "you are not alone" is added for reassurance. As one might tell someone who is terminally single: "If you are alone, you are not alone." But think about it. If you have itchy, burning feet, do you necessarily want company? Would you want to be in a room full of people with itchy, burning feet?

Any way you look at it, it's a non-sequitur. So, you may say: "Turn off the stupid radio." The thought is worth considering, but then the silence would be oppressive. One would really feel utterly and thoroughly alone.

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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