Friday, October 2, 2009
I was driving around the city the other day when I pulled to a stop behind a minivan. This van is part of a fleet of vehicles owned by a local cab company. Apparently, the company is hiring. Displayed on the back of the cab was a bumper sticker proclaiming, “Drivers Wanted: Live the Dream!”
Pardon my ignorance, but are there really people out there dreaming of becoming cab drivers? Are there kindergartners among the future astronauts and firefighters in their classes who beam and say, “When I grow up, I want to pick people up from the airport?”
When I think of dreamers, I see aspiring actors and doctors and singers (and humor columnists turned bloggers who dream of world domination). I’m having a hard time imagining earnest young dreamers surrounding themselves with pictures of yellow cars and repeating daily affirmations like, “I CAN change people’s lives! I CAN beat traffic! I CAN keep the meter running during loading and unloading!”
I do understand that by saying this, there will be readers who completely misunderstand my meaning and will want to send me angry letters telling me that driving a cab is honest work. Angry letter writer from my illegal immigrant/chicken costume column (read it here), I’m talking about you. I’m not saying cab drivers don’t do honest work. I’m just saying driving a cab isn’t really something people dream of doing.
I think the bumper sticker is indicative of a trend across the nation to market mundane things as somehow extraordinary and life-changing. Things as ordinary as cold cereal and band-aids are presented to consumers as products that “bring people together” or “change the world.” It’s not enough for my wheat bread to taste good and hold my sandwich together. Now, it has to raise my self esteem, help me remember how much I love my mom, and make me want to coach a local little league team. Really, guys, I just wanted some toast.
I see exactly this manipulative marketing in the 25th Anniversary advertising at my local movie theater. Prior to every show, movie-goers are treated to an ad featuring glowing families purchasing overpriced concessions. As the background music swells to its emotional climax, we’re told the theater is celebrating 25 years of “Making a difference!” Um…okay. I went in with $50 and came out with none. I guess that’s a difference. The movie was fun, anyway.
Maybe I’m too cynical to see the positives in all of this. I don’t know. When I go out and buy a hamburger and fries or a movie ticket or a fiber supplement, I don’t need to be pandered to. It’s okay for your product to just be a product or your job opportunity to just be job. Not everything in life has to make the world a more beautiful place full of shiny, happy people sharing Snickers bars and selfless love.
Maybe there’s someone out there right now dreaming with everything he has that someday, somehow, he will pull out those keys, step into that cab, and drive his way into DESTINY! Maybe he loves his mom more with every bite of wheat bread and had his cancer cured by movie theater butter, too. To that person, I say, “Live the dream, buddy! The cab company’s hiring, bread’s on sale at the grocery store, and the theater’s looking for a poster child!
“Now pass the Snickers.”