Lampoon Of Life: Are Things Out Of Control?
by Mark Cammack July 20, 2019
Ghost Driver: Is life out of control? Do you feel like someone else or even no one is in the driver's seat?
We are all prone to periods with events that are beyond our control. I once met a man who was helping displaced people. Based on the turmoil that some of the group had experienced, I was prepared to see devastation. Instead, they were telling jokes and laughing. When I inquired about this I was told,"that is how we survive." The fellow then quickly drew his index finger across his throat and stated,"without humor it would all be over." Lesson learned.
With that in mind, I will do something very risky. It might be considered perilous publication. We are going to take a satirical look at the lighter side of life and stress. We may even laugh at ourselves, but if not, we can at least make fun of those who deserve it. The more stress we have, the more merriment we may need. Perhaps this is where the term happy fool comes from.
A happy flamboyant fool, or more appropriately a jolly jester. Some work places allow one day per week where we can dress however we want.
One of the earliest teachings I encountered in psychology courses was the Scale of Life Stressors. Basically we assign points to life events, add them up, and compare ourselves to a nonexistent average person on the scale. If someone gets 150 points they win a 50% possibility of a major health breakdown within two years, and at 300 points an 80% chance. Interestingly, bureaucrats and red tape gave so much stress as to push people entirely off the chart. These were nicknamed bureaucratic breakdowns and the only known means of recovery is to be around sensible people.
I have yet to meet the nonexistent average person. I met individuals but no one was average. Stress tolerance and health varied greatly. The points did not add up.
The fallacy of the average means that many places will try to make a statistic out of us. They will take charts and graphs and push computer keys in pursuit of something that does not exist at the individual level. This is so that they do not have to think about individuality. Never mind that we are all unique in many ways, it is much easier to have simpleminded statistics to work with. This makes life easier for them. What happens when such persons and their statistics are in the driver's seat of our car? Will we even have a remote chance of getting to where we need to be? A quality travel agent and driver working for our best interests will do far better.
Since we have been discussing points, how do you like the points and rewards programs that so many businesses use? How did this begin?
If you travel, you probably have heard of gaining points with airlines or hotels. After accumulating enough, you get an what is claimed to be a free or discounted plane ticket or hotel stay. The same principle applies to some groceries and retail stores: Do business with us, and we will reward you. In reality, the consumer is paying dearly for the points. Some persons, their best customers, get addicted to gaining the false points. Oh my, their lives are out of control. There is a cost and profit margin to running any business. The poor customer may have overpaid for the product or service, and the points can be an illusion. If someone does not cash them in, it is even more profit for the business.
A long time ago, in a behavioral setting, social scientists were wondering how to get lagging children to perform daily tasks. This included tying shoelaces, brushing teeth, and being generally subservient to everyone else. They found that by using points and rewards, in a similar way to training pets, worked. The children completed more daily tasks and everyone else was happier. Then something amazing happened. The techniques were found to work on some grown-ups, too. Actually, they worked on a lot of grown-ups.
What will adults do to gain points? They will go out of their way to businesses and spend, spend, spend dollars. The dollar itself is also a type of point system. But I digress. Corporations found points and rewards to be profitable. They implemented vast campaigns using advertising mixed with heavy behavioral modification techniques. They discovered, much to their delight, that many adults would respond like children. They would either do what they were told, grab anything with the word free, or try to win if a game was offered. We should be careful about playing other's games. I am not saying that part of the adult population is in any way exploitable. I would not do that. There are far too many of them.
There are at least two words we should run from as if our economic life depends on it: free and points. Both are illusions and like placing someone else in the driver's seat of our car. Trust me, we do not want a free chauffeur, either ourselves or our car might wind up in a bad place. The words quality and value and trustworthy are much better. The best businesses keep high quality standards in both products and personnel, and are sincere in providing as much value as possible to the consumer. They have earned our trust through years of good products and service.
I once went with a friend to a car dealership. She wanted to see a vehicle advertised in the newspaper at a bargain price. Since I do not use four letter words, I will leave out the auto brand name. We were greeted on the car lot by the devious duo of Big Al and Skinny Sam. They were reminiscent of the fine comics Laurel and Hardy, except with these being their evil twins. Sam was a young fellow learning the sales trade and older artful Al seemed to be his mentor. I can honestly say that I have never seen such teamwork or minds of their caliber.
Above are the marvelous comics Laurel and Hardy. Imagine if they had bad look-alikes selling cars. We must be careful who is behind the wheel, even for a test drive.
The advertisement was presented to the sales fellows and the vehicle taken for a test drive. Afterwards we went inside the dealership building. Upon showing some interest in the machine, poker-faced Skinny Sam started asking the same questions over and over. "Do you want tinted windows?" he began. This was followed by,"Do you want a CD player? Do you want floor mats?" He kept peskily querying every few minutes. He ignored the words No thank you, No, and lastly No! Finally I told him,"You sound like a broken record, are you trying to use that old technique?" He stopped in disappointment. However, Big Al was just beginning. "There was a misprint in the paper. The price was listed as lower than it should have been. I can ask my manager what we can do," Al said with a sly smile as he began a new game. He quickly departed as Skinny Sam looked on.
I tried to warn my friend about what was happening. Keep in mind that some auto dealers have been known to leave intercoms on to listen in on customers. Upon returning and brief discussion, Al curiously inquired about my background. When he heard about human performance, he claimed to have been a competitive powerlifter who could squat with 1000 pounds. At the time, only one or two people in the world could do that, and he was not one of them. In poor condition, he would have been lucky to manage with his own body weight. I could only guess he was reading a book entitled Sneaky Sales and it said to impress the customer. He did leave quite an impression.
Big Al then commented regarding the higher price,"It's only money." I let him know,"If it's only money, then you should honor the advertised price. We cannot do business with you." Bags of tricks are acceptable for magicians, not businesses. We were about to do a disappearing act and leave. However, my friend said,"He kept my driver's license after I showed it to him."
I had to directly demand her driver's license back. Al wanted to keep the ID in his rear pants pocket and us at the dealership. With insistence he relented. I returned it to my friend. She looked at the warped ID and commented with dismay,"He bent it by sitting on it!" The situation was very bent in many ways. We hastily walked out the door and back to her car.
Their auto lot was also contrived. It was a maze with only one way to drive out. To exit to the main road, we had to go in front of the sales door. When he saw us about to leave, Big Al came running from the building. It was a short distance and he was breathless. He clutched papers in his right hand and waved them frantically at us. He then tried to yell something. We could not make out what he said over his wheezing. We simply waved
good riddance goodbye while departing, still in control. Al threw the paperwork down to the ground in disgruntled defeat as we drove off.
To this day, I have never returned to American auto dealerships that have four letter words as their brand name. It would have been an expensive ride if Big Al had driven the deal. The only thing worse than a free chauffeur is a conniving sales character.
"You can learn from every human experience." - Jim Rohn
"There are some people you might not want to experience." - Mark Cammack
When life is getting out of control, the best thing to do may be finding a happy place. Being with merry people or watching comedies can help. It might be a good time to let go and laugh.
May the light of laughter shine in our souls and in the face of our foes.
Wishing you the best,
Dr. Col. Alfred Bellows
Dr. Frasier Crane
Dr. Niles Crane
Dr. Robert (Bob) Hartley
Thurston Howell III
Bruce, H. Addington. Scientific Mental Healing. Boston: Little, Brown, And Company. 1911.
Gurtler, Leo. University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. Humor in Educational Contexts. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association (110th, Chicago, IL, August 22-25), 2002.
Holmes & Rahe Stress Inventory from Stress.org
Cinderfella. Directed by Frank Tashlin. Starring Jerry Lewis, Ed Wynn, Anna Maria Alberghetti. Paramount Pictures, 1960.
Half Shot At Sunrise. Directed by Paul Sloane. Starring Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Dorothy Lee, George MacFarlane, Leni Stengel. RKO Radio Pictures, 1930. In the public domain and available at Archive.org
Hold That Blonde! Directed by George Marshall. Starring Eddie Bracken, Veronica Lake, Willie Best. Paramount, 1945.
I Dream Of Jeannie. TV show starring Babara Eden, Larry Hagman, Bill Daily. 1965-1970.
The Bob Newhart Show. TV show starring Bob Newhart, Susanne Pleshette, Peter Bonerz, Bill Daily, Marcia Wallace. MTM Enterprises, CBS. 1972-1978.
What About Bob? Directed by Frank Oz. Starring Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty. Touchstone Pictures. 1991.
Images are © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.
Jolly Jester is a derived work from the public domain photo at: Pixabay.com
Simpleminded Statistics is a work created by author. It is based on public domain images from wpclipart.com
Crafty Kyle's Cars is a work created by author. It is based on public domain images from Wikimedia.org
Oliver & Hardy edited film clip is from: The Stolen Jools. Directed by William C. McGann. Performances by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and many others. Paramount Pictures, 1931. Public domain due to lack of copyright. Archive.org
Ghost driver edited film clip is from: Topper Returns. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. Performances by Joan Blondell, Roland Young, Carole Landis, Billie Burke, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson. Hal Roach Studios, 1941. Public domain due to lack of copyright renewal. Archive.org Wikipedia.org
Ghost Driver photo is a work created by author. It is based on Topper Returns and Open Road Photo by Daniele Nabissi. Unsplash.com
© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.