21 December 2020

Ellis Millsaps: Commercial Break, Part One


As I write this tomorrow, December 14th, is my son's birthday. My birthday was last Monday, Pearl Harbor Day. Both our birthdays are particularly significant days this year. On Jack's birthday the presidential electors will select a sane president. My birthday marked the last day I would have to listen to Joe Namath’s whining and wheedling about  selling me Medicare insurance I already have.

 Joe was just one of a dozen or so Medicare “helpline” advertisers which until  the December 7th deadline ran over and over saying exactly the same spiel, sometimes twice in the same commercial. It was driving me crazier.. Not that Joe was doing anything particularly nefarious and I suppose job opportunities for retired pantyhose models aren't that plentiful, but it should be noted that while these advertisers style themselves as performing a public service, they are in fact insurance agents who don't get paid unless they “sell” you a policy. I put sell in quotes because the policies are often free.

 They are performing a public service only if they're reaching people who don't yet have this insurance, but I find it hard to believe there's a large enough group of people that ignorant to justify this massive amount of television ad spending. No they want you to call and see if your policy is the best one for you. Their incentive is to convince you that the company or in some cases one of the companies they represent is the “best” policy for you. Thus if I were to call  their incentive  would be to get me to change from my Humana policy to another company they represent even if they also represent Humana.

 Now was that boring or what? I needed it off my chest.

Unfortunately my birthday didn't end the ever-present CarShield commercials,  a scam aimed at old people, While Namath’s hawking earns him no black marks in the Lamb's Book of Life, there is a special place in hell reserved for Chris Berman and Ice T.

 In the first place they are not as they claim CarShield customers. People of their economic class and intelligence would never buy one of these policies. They are not customers-- although they may well have a policy-- they are employees, independent contractors paid well to promote  the scam.

 CarShield claims to insure its customers against highly unlikely events. Cars now are made to go 300,000 miles or more. ( When I was a kid in the 1950s and 60s you invited your neighbors over for a ride to watch your odometer roll over the rarefied 100,000 mile mark. I don't think the odometers even went that far then. I seem to recall they just went back to all zeros.)

 The odds on your new car needing a new engine or transmission before you reach a hundred and fifty thousand miles are quite slim and CarShield cuts off at 150,000. I say they “claim” to provide coverage because I've been to the Better Business Bureau website and checked them out. They are not approved by the bureau and the commentary is a deluge of complaints from people who bought CarShield policies. It seems they don't pay the claims even if one of these unlikely breakdowns occurs. They claim your problem is due to a pre-existing condition when you bought the policy or that the breakdown is due to your negligence in maintaining your car.

 I endured all these commercials before my birthday because I only watched cable news-- mostly MSNBC, occasionally Fox, rarely CNN-- and Turner Classic Movies. The news channels are rife with commercials while TMC advertises only itself. TCM shows 50s and 60s movie trailers which are fun  but also advertise schemes to get you to give them money. There is the TCM wine club. “You know a fine wine and a great movie are exactly the same.” 

No they're not. Then there's the fan club, TCM Backlot. “You get to share time with other classic movie lovers and do some really creative things... one of my favorites is getting to vote on where the next event will be held”. These people are as clueless as  CarShield customers.

 You may have noticed I’ve taken a six-week sabbatical from writing in this space, sort of a long commercial break. I stopped because what I saw on TV troubled me so and covid-19 has me trapped here with the telly. I was too depressed to read or write, too saddened by the daily waves of mostly preventable death; long lines of hungry people without jobs, many of them in nice cars, waiting hours for a free handout of food; a sizable anti-democracy movement that I never expected to see in my country, led by an ignorant would-be dictator.

 I'm happy to report that I'm now watching only Lifetime Movie Channel Christmas movies where the ending is always happy and love never fails. I'm feeling much better, returning I think to my old acerbic self.

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...