Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Call Now!

Manuel has a new little hobby. He likes to watch infomercials. In Hindi. Not that he speaks or understands a word of it, he just gets mesmerized the second he flicks a channel and intercepts one… I have seen the inflatable sofa bed being driven over by a truck and, guess what? It doesn’t puncture. Then we have some capsule shaped food processing device. The Sauna Belt for all those wanting to sweat off the weight without the inconvenient hassles of going to gym or a simple change in diet. And it’s a great product which can be worn under a suit to the office or under a slip dress when out on a date. There is a also a device that gives all the benefits of jogging and all you have to do is lie flat on the floor and put your feet into the special machine that moves the lower body around like a snake. A few short weeks later and, surprise, six-pack abs.

And at this very moment in front of me, there is a formerly dark skinned person on the screen enthusiastically telling everyone how much better their life will be if they just bleach their skin. In fact, it goes so far as to convince women they have a better chance of landing a husband if they can just shed a few unwanted shades of brown. The visual references are such that there is nothing lost in the language barrier.

Not that I have anything against infomercials. I am a big fan of Rapid White Pro which made my teeth three shades lighter and made me irresistably popular. I also have a stunningly beautiful friend named Ann who looks eerily like Nicole Kidman and who once made an infomercial for a vitamin drink - and it was so tasty too, just like candy. It was while I was living in Amsterdam. At one point she was looking for a name to use for the taping. We were both kind of worried that it might come back to haunt her, and if she had an alias then she could always deny it was her. After all, she had no distinguishing marks or facial tattoos. Who would know? We tossed a bunch of names around and I suggested she go with either Britney Houston or Whitney Spears. Those were my idea and the ones I personally liked best. She politely denied and ended up using her own name. I still think that was a missed opportunity. At the time she was single and a big, I mean BIG smoker. And there she was on television talking about healthy eating and pushing the product with all her might. The whole thing culminated in the one line none of us will ever let her live down: “And as a mother, I wouldn’t be without it!”

One Thursday Ann and I were on one of our usual label collecting tours of the Hague. She was into Chanel and I thought it was just a bit too “little old lady” and so we went out and got her some Versace and Prada. It was while trying on a full-length shaved mink coat that felt like buttah that one of the sales people approached and asked of Ann “have I seen you on television?” Ann smiled not so coyly, brushed her fallen bangs behind her ear and said “Yes, you have.” She then bought everything the sales person showed her and became a piece of furniture at the shop.

The next Monday I had a stack of brochures on my desk. Ann was incredibly photogenic and she had been ont he cover of a number of our internal communciation pieces. And there they all were in a stack on my desk, each one personalised just for me.

Upon each one was written “Good luck with your career. Lot’s of love, Ann”

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