The television ads became almost unbearable. Auburn is located near the Georgia – Alabama border, which means that political ads from both states are saturating the airwaves as the primary election dates get closer. In particular, the candidates seem to have bought all the spots available around the evening news slot, the only real television I consistently watch.
You would think as a retired politician I would understand and even enjoy the 30 second commercials singing the praises of the various candidates, especially since I know a fair number of them personally. Therein lies the problem. There are no praises being sung, at least nothing positive. Rather, the political advertisements are almost uniformly negative.
In one particularly brutal stretch I started wondering how many negative commercials would be broadcast in a row. The record was an astounding 18 ads before one brave soul gave a reason as why you should vote FOR him rather than AGAINST his or her opponent. Facts were remarkably thin on many of the ads, but all the buzzwords were there. Conservative. Liberal. Democrat. Republican. Pro-Trump. Anti-Trump. Anti-Tax. Anti-Abortion. Anti-Growth. Anti-American.
I honestly longed for things, whether mailers, television commercials, newspaper ads, or even billboards to suggest to me WHY you should have my vote. Tell me what you are going to do in a positive way to make the lives of the people in this country better. By the way, I mean all the people of this country, not just “your side”.
With my votes already decided and my frustration level at its maximum level, my wife and I decided to head to Compass Lake where we could spend time in a hammock instead of in front of a television watching mindless negative advertising.
It worked. We spent four delightful days getting everything ready for Summer. Though we worked hard, we enjoyed getting away. On Monday, we started packing for our return to Auburn when I heard voices in my car. I realized it was the radio, which was strange because the car had not been started.
I got into the auto only to hear an emergency operator ask repeatedly if anyone was in the car. I realized then that somehow the Emergency Road Assistance, better known as S.O.S. had been called. I politely told the operator there was no emergency and that I must have hit the key fob in my pocket and accidently called.
Ten minutes later, less than a mile from Compass Lake, the car automatically called the Emergency Operator again, then again. Finally, an operator talked to a technician, called me back and informed me that we had an SOS System malfunction. There was no way to disable it other than take it to the nearest BMW dealer. That happened to be in Montgomery, 150 miles away.
We resigned ourselves that we were going to have to make a detour to Montgomery on our way home. Furthermore, we were going to get hundreds of calls during that two and a half hour trip, each one politely asking us what was our emergency?
It cannot get any worse than this, we thought. Wrong. At some point, after some fifty or sixty phone calls, the operator failed to hang up on their end. You cannot hang up an emergency call from the car in case you are incapacitated in an accident. For the next 45 minutes we heard a obnoxious musical score, some 15 or 20 seconds long, repeating itself over and over. We could not turn the volume down or turn the radio off. We even turned the car off, but the music kept playing.
We still had over a hundred miles to drive. It was too loud to listen to a book. You could not access anything on the radio. Just this mind-numbing repetition of some modern beat, designed to either keep you alert while in an accident, or drive you crazy. We were not sure which.
Finally, another operator came on the line and cut the music off. The calls resumed intermittently until we reached Troy. Just after I commented that we had not had a call for a few minutes, it rang. For the next 25 miles, it redialed as soon as the operator terminated the call.
We got on a first name basis with a few of the operators, some with different accents likely in different countries. Without exception, they were unfailingly nice even helping us to find humor in this maddening turn of events.
We arrived in the dealership and sat down in the comfortable waiting room. The television satellite was down at first, which was no big deal. When it came back on, the first five things I witnessed were, you guessed it, negative political ads.
We are still waiting in the dealership, hoping to get home for dinner. If they do not make the repairs before closing time, I guess we will have to make an emergency SOS call. My BMW knows the number by heart.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org