The latest from the Associated Press and my elevator

My office has elevator TV. Step into almost any lift in Manhattan and you’ll be greeted with a TV screen that broadcasts ads, news, sports and entertainment tidbits. They show pie charts from USA Today. I defy you to tear your eyes away from the screen as the car shoots up to your floor. You can’t. It’s insidious brilliance.

[Almost as insidious and brilliant as a cigarette campaign I saw at an ad agency I worked at many years ago. They went to local beaches and passed out rubber flip-flops for free. Embossed on the bottom were the Camel cigarette logo and image of Joe Camel (remember him?). People—kids—walked on the beach and left an impression in the sand. I saw photos of beaches COVERED with Camel logos and Joe Camel’s phallic face. They were called “Camel Tracks.”]

Elevator TV is broadcast by Captivate Network, which makes perfect sense because we’re captured like rats in a ticking trap. Cheeky bastards. They ran this news blip the other day from the AP wires:


It’s not funny. I’m not trying to imply it is. The man was murdered. But can you see how this all went down? A loudmouth American—a Texan, no less—drunkenly pushes his way onto the stage and wrestles the microphone away. Starts yelling into it. Feedback. The musicians, who probably take pride in their work, look on with contempt. One of them snaps, stab, stab, stab. Lights out. If you’re a guest in a foreign nation, mind your manners, pardner. Giddy up.

I wish I’d invented elevator TV. I wouldn’t be typing this from a coffee shop at 7:09 a.m. before facing the Captivate Network. I’d be typing it from a beach in Tahiti sometime after 2:00 p.m.

*     *     *

Speaking of coffee shops, just look at this poor bastard sitting next to me.


He was simultaneously juggling three—three—devices; a laptop, an iPad and an iPhone. Wasn’t the promise of new technology to set us free and simplify our lives? What a lie THAT turned out to be! After I watched this sorry show, I meditated on leaving my iPhone at home for one day. Going an entire 24 hours without touching it. Do you know what? I have a modicum of self-awareness and I don’t think I can do it! Could you? Seriously. Could you? We should all try it as an experiment. Verizon and AT&T won’t like this idea one bit.

*     *     *

Coco and some of her neighborhood pals. They really do enjoy each others company, all appearances to the contrary.

*     *     *

If you are an old man thinking of taking early retirement, you should read King Lear first. If you are a middle-aged man thinking of marrying a younger woman, consult Molière before-hand. If you are a young man and you think that love will last forever, you might wan to take a gander at Wuthering Heights before making any long-range plans.

Joe Queenan
One for the Books

34 thoughts on “The latest from the Associated Press and my elevator

  1. That TV in the elevator is really unbelievable…..! They may have them here, too—But I haven’t been in an elevator for many many years…..
    As to the iPhone…..The reception here in my house is so poor that I never use my cell phone, at all! (Thank God!) It sits in a drawer. It seems like such an addiction, even though I know it is a great convenience, too…..Frankly, I know I would probably be just as rude as everyone else….But, I don’t have to worry about that one, until or if they ever get the reception thing figured out…..

    • I didn’t realize it but the subjects in this post are related. The horrors of technology. Jeebus! Now I can’t even take an elevator ride without having an advertisement shoved in my face! Never a quiet moment.

  2. The murdered Texan makes me think of Sheriff J W Pepper, who was on vacation in Thailand in The Man with the Golden Gun. I remember him calling the locals “pony-heads” – I wonder if the man who got killed saw that film.

    • I just read an interview with comedian Jeff Garland and he said that mobile phones are a curse. He said they’re devices that instigate gossip. That might be a bit much but I agree with the spirit of what he said. I may still try to disconnect for a day. I’m afraid I’ll find out I’m too bothered by it.

    • Advertising is RELENTLESS. Do you know that they now stick gigantic print ads on the floors in drug stores and transit stations? I’m not kidding. It’s awful. You can’t even walk around and stare at the ground without your eyes falling on a commercial. Do you have that out there? If not, it’s only a matter of time…

      • It’s disconcerting stepping into a subway car that has been literally transformed into a giant ad. They cover every inch of the car with vinyl. I have to stop myself from picking at it…

        Captivate Elevator TV is sometimes the only way I get my news some days…

      • Busses, too. Everything is a roving billboard now. I just read a great piece in the NY Times about the new track call monitors in Penn Station. Apparently, the screen is about 80% ads, with a little piece of real estate for the track numbers. People hate them. Madison Avenue won.

  3. I would love to give up my iPhone for a day. I think giving up drinking would be a piece of cake compared to giving up technology. Funny, I rarely ever talk on the thing, it’s just a mini-computer to me.

    I used to work for Philip Morris… god the money they would spend on advertising… That’s pretty smart about the flops though… I wouldn’t have ever thought of that.

    • I hate the thought that I’m actually addicted to something—a friggin’ gadget, no less—but when I turn myself to face me (as Mr. Bowie did) I have to admit I think I might be. How bloody juvenile. Were/are you addicted to cigarettes as well? Another tough one to break.

      You’ve got to hand it to the ad boys, they’re a pretty clever bunch. That WAS a good one!

      • I was a smoker for a couple of years, but I used the nicotine lozenges to quit. But I was hooked on those damn lozenges for about five years. Nicotine is a gnarly beast. I guess if we’ve got to be hooked on something, technology is pretty mild in comparison to some huh?

        Nice museum pix too, BTW. Love the Pink Floyd too!

      • I smoked as well when I was very young and only for about three years, so quitting was no big deal. If you’ve been at it for 10,15 years, good luck. And don’t kid yourself. People, especially, those in their 20s, seem plenty addicted to technology. Ask one of them to leave their phone at home for a day. See if they can do it.

  4. I agree with the advice on respecting local customs and mores. Mind you I tend to think that ANYONE ANYWHERE who attempts to sing karaoke should face capital punishment.

    Even though I love technology and teach ICT, I refuse to link my smartphone to the web. It phones and txts and that’s it. I want peace sometimes.

    • My office has occasional karaoke outings, not one of which I’ve ever attended. I can’t bring myself to watch or participate. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think it was karaoke night in the Thai bar. that’s what probably brought out the knife.

      Re: the smartphone. You are a powerful man. It’s my weakness. The first step is admitting I have a problem, etc.

  5. i went without phone for 2 1/2 weeks in turkey — but i had daily connection to the internet via iPad, so i can’t really say i was off the grid. on those occasions when i forget my phone at home? i tweak. it’s sad, really…

    as for advertising creep? gotta say that at least in an elevator it gives you something to look at, rather than stare at the doors to avoid awkward contact with fellow passengers. you want to freak people out? get in an elevator and face the BACK. everyone will be on edge in seconds.

    Love the shot of Coco and the neighborhood hounds. i am reminded of the Bumpus’ hounds from “A Christmas Story”. The two in your yard remind me why i will never get a beagle… as beautiful as they are? they never freakin’ shut up…

    • I’m such a hypocrite. I always lambast people who walk down the avenue yammering into their mobile. I call them horrible names (not out loud). But I couldn’t leave my phone home for one day. I’m no better.

      I love making those two dogs howl. It’s not even a bark, really. Just a long, dry, mournful plea. God, it’s funny.

  6. Tiresome to think we cant ride in an elevator without being “entertained.”

    I am a Luddite. Own a PC. NO ipad,iphone etc. Have a trac phone i never use as there is no reception up here on the hill.

    I do admit though to feeling frustrated when I can’t log on to the internet/email/FB.

    • You make excellent points at first and then the truth is revealed in the last paragraph! We all have varying degrees of addiction to this sport. It’s just as well we embrace it and keep it under control as best we can vs. having it control us. People out here still can’t seem to drive a car or exercise in the gym without simultaneously consulting the internet.

    • You’re not the only person who couldn’t view the video. My own wife had a hard time on her iPad! A bunch of yelping dogs. Nothing more.

  7. Orwell predicted a constant, inescapable flow of information, most of it about permanent war. We’ve arrived at that point.

    I’ve had the odd day or two without a mobile, when it was broken or I lost the charger. Quite liberating once you get used to it. It shuts down a lot of pointless din.

    Must say so I’d miss the flirting and sexting.

    • What would Orwell say if he could see this mess today!? “I told you so,” or something to that effect. I’d like to break my addiction but I know it’s not going to happen.

  8. We’re as bad – we all sit at the table at a restaurant “checking-in” and then talking about what is on our news feeds… Is it a better world? Some stuff is great, having a GPS map in your pocket and all the internet to stop an argument “No trust me he was in Colosseum II before Rainbow…” etc. But I don’t know whether some of the fluff is worth it all. And I ignore work emails when I’m not working, that seems to completely confuse some of my colleagues but I only get paid for two days work a week why should I read them outside of those days?

    • It’s a deal with the devil and I’m not kidding. I really think they might cause more harm than good. My two daughters will soon be old enough to be victimized by the internet. It’s no small matter.

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