After the katana story I wrote two days ago, it's evident I really don't like Home Shopping channels. I can't even tell you why. I support them in any free economy. But I do know the most annoying thing is the talking heads that constantly comment on their merchandise with inane filler. I have a friend in Germany who REALLY likes football (which we call soccer), and he hates when American sportscasters are in on a sports feed because they won't shut the fuck up.
"I know what's going on! I can bloody well see the match! I am not listening to it on the radio, am I? Shut the fuck up, you bloody yanks!"
I remind him we kicked his ass in World War II, and he says the entire country was on vacation from 1939 to 1945. But he's right, in US sports, and even in local news, the people keep yammering. An unlike me, who engages an audience to try and entertain them, these people are just empty headed filler. Like a great wedding cake with a foam core; they look nice, but not much going on underneath the decorations. "Oh look, he used to play football. I guess that makes him a qualified announcer." No.
So when something ghoulish happens, I am pinned to the YouTube with sick curiosity. Like a elementary school playground witnessing a car wreck outside the gates, I find the faces of the children more fascinating than the unfolding scene of vehicle manslaughter. And I find these vacant bobbleheads utterly amazing as they try and react to an unscripted reality. Like the ultimate anti-improvisational theater.
Narr: The scene is a deli. A man holds it up, thinking it's a bank. GO!
HSN Dude: Um... I want a sandwich?
HSN Girl: Have we started?
HSN Dude: The man holding up the cashier has a gun.
HSN Girl: Where? Where do you see that, Tom?
Hilarious! So we come to this second setup: selling a ladder. Ladders have been, in America, historically linked to more lawsuits than any other product. It is simply unlikely that a ladder will ever become safe. I was raised in scouts and taught about being careful around ladders, as climbing them can be hazardous; you could be attacked by bears.
As our Misfortune-en-scène unfolds, a lone ladder leans by a circular window which might face out to a dusk after a setting sun with cool shades of navy blue. Framed by text describing the object in technical detail, this ladder stands silently. A lone figure in matching navy colors enters from stage left. Like a lost chunk of twilight sky wanting to go home, he brings his own ladder to climb the dark blue porthole to freedom.
Meanwhile, your ear is grabbed by the Lisa and Kevin on the phone with Renee. Renee smells of desperation and a loneliness that can only come from haunting memories of being runner up for Miss Homecoming. So close, Renee. Two votes away and you could have ridden that rented buggy in the parade. Two votes were the only difference between waving with a gloved hand at adoring lookers and being one of six generic mermaid mascots on a float made from crepe paper and blue glitter. At least being assistant manager at the town's Wal-Mart has assured you can make payments on that apartment with vaulted ceilings for you and Mr. Tibbles, the slightly overweight and gassy cat you sleep with. And you can tell people you live in California, hoping that they will think of you as a jet-set LA personality instead of living on the Nevada border, counting down drawers by people who can barely put on their red vest without getting it inside-out.
"Hey Renee," Lisa says with practiced enthusiasm. Lisa probably had no prior customer training beyond her work handing out cheese on toothpicks at Hickory Farms; she was just a natural for this element. Her shallow banter gives the illusion of depth by punctuating her reactions to a customer the same way she got half the football team to sleep with her. "Uh huh! You made a touchdown, all RIGHT! You go, Dave!"
Our attention is drawn back to Chris, who is inexplicably setting up a ladder right next to one already set up. Already, we see he's having subtle trouble with the extending of the ladder. Part of the problem is that his improvisational skills are reduced to the mere core of the activity: extend the ladder, climb up it, pretend to dust, and show he does not get attacked by a scout-hating grizzly. He exercises this chore with the kind of resentment of a step dad trying hard to not lose his temper with kids that did not come from his own loins. To his credit, he brings a duster to give the illusion that the circular window needs to be cleared of spiderwebs and accumulated pet dander from Mr. Tibbles. But this proves to be his undoing. Once he gets to the top of the ladder, some part of his brain --an essential part containing motor control-- is distracted in an attempt to give the realism of a dusting activity. Quickly, he surmises he is losing control of the situation because he hadn't really thought through what to do when he got up there. He probably doesn't even know HOW to dust, preferring to leave that job to the women-folk. Like a cargo cult of cleaning activity, he swishes the duster around, with no plan on what to do next. Perhaps he also had a bout of pesky diarrhea from the earlier show selling smoked cheese logs. So quickly, he steps down and misjudges the distance to the next step.
His foot slips too far forward, and because he didn't steady himself in his haste to conceal his impending cheese log fart, his entire body sides away from the wall, and with a noise that sounds like a squeak and an "oof," Chris arcs his way to the floor and lands a huge slab of back fat on the Pergo flooring. I am impressed that his leg did not jam into the rungs like a stick in bicycle spokes. What could have been a wrenching noise of leg bones snapping like a fresh set of celery stalks was instead just a direct flop to the floor, slapping Chris' kidneys like a belly flop into an empty pool. The scene quickly fades as we see Chris rolling slowly like a beached whale, still grasping the duster, perhaps to fend off bear attacks.
I bet his cheese farts were suddenly chunkier than he expected them. A blow like that will empty anything in the launching bay, if you get my drift.
Renee, who was in the middle of describing her prized vaulted ceilings, is watching her TV and sees the fall unfold. "Uh oh," she says, with the tone of voice more commonly used when she forgets to bring home cat food.
"Okay... we're gonna make sure Chris is okay..." say Lisa. I am sure this is the "royal we," because I think Lisa wants to erase this stain on her career before it becomes a joke on YouTube... oh... too soon, Lisa? While I applaud the quick change to the still photo of the items, when we cut back to Lisa and Kevin, they have not moved. They are not even looking to see if Chris is okay.
"And that has never happened!" Renee suddenly feels the need to add. Like a chunk of gristle in the thickening stew, I am not sure what value that statement has, but part of me feels like Renee was a little too hasty explaining the product she bought is not expected to make people plummet to the floor. Part of me suspects "Renee" may not be the cat-loving apartment dweller I assumed, but someone QVC hired to call in and assure those women who work at Wal-Mart in California that collapsible ladders are a must-have in today's troubling world of dusty vaulted ceilings.
"Well..." Lisa, unable to cope, but desperate to say anything, tries to reach beyond her mental grasp to somehow detach the event from the actual ladder itself. "... you know, it's a very slippery floor up there in front of our door there sometimes..." She has completely ignored the fact the ladder itself did not slip. In fact, any ladder would have been the same passive object as the railings or even the floor in this scene. The truth is, Chris fucked up. Chris wanted to get down those steps before his ruse of dusting pantomime became noticeably awkward, before the cheese farts puffed his pants and drifted down to the people below, or before he was attacked by an ursine mercenary hell-bent on chewing up his merit badges.
But sadly, even though the ladder was as innocent as Chris' navy polo, Lisa's awkward comment seems oddly off-center. The kind of comment one raises an eye at when a federal investigator asks, "Where were you when Mr. Casey was last seen?" and you answer, "I can't bury a body without help. I don't even own a shovel!" Lisa may be innocent, but she sounds guilty. Perhaps Renee was not in California, but across the studio, on a microphone hooked up to an AM radio. Perhaps it's the producer's assistant, or worse, the president of the Collapsible Ladder Wellness League. Renee might be making exaggerated hand gestures to go to commercial as the phones for ladder orders stop ringing like dying sparks of a huge firework.
"He is moving, he is okay... but he scared me for a moment right there..." Yeah, Lisa, because the accident was all about you. Kevin tries to chime in, "Yep, Chris scares me right there's he's okay..." but since it's about Lisa, she talks over him.
Sadly, the video ends here. I am sure that after the commercial break where the ladder is being advertised by older men with dyed hair to look like younger men, but not so young as to disinterest their over-40 demographic, they return as if nothing has happened. Perhaps Chris is whisked out of the studio, taken for a several hour drive, and dumped into bear country. There he lies in a field, smeared with honey, unable to walk, and only a duster to defend himself.