Today I went down the M1 to visit with an old friend who last year moved from Wetherby to Ruddington, near Nottingham. It was my first chance to see her new place as she moved while I was away in America. While waiting at the traffic lights where the Outer Ring Road meets Park Lane, I saw there was an ambulance at the front of the line on the other side. I noticed that the driver of the car immediately behind the ambulance had his window open and was flicking away his cigarette ash. Ironically at the same time, he was coughing like his lungs were about to burst and it put a nice twist on the phrase 'ambulance chaser.'
But it got me thinking about things medical and as I had the best part of a 2 hour drive ahead of me with no cell phone to play with (new laws came into force yesterday), I had plenty of time to mull things over. I had been home from America for 4 weeks and wasn't missing their medical commercials one little bit. In case you've not read my ramblings about these commercials before, they're based on the fact that in the US, patients have much more control over what pills they pop and even what doctors and specialists they go to see. It's a sort of 'you pays your money so you're the boss' sort of deal.
Many of the people I know are on first name terms with their various 'ologists' and know exactly who to call on for all that ails them......real or imaginary.
As a result, the vast majority of the medical ads on tv over there either end with the phrase, "ask your doctor about xxxxxxx" where "xxxxxxx" can be anything from viagra to suppositories or "ask your 'ologist about having your heart bypassed, brain upgraded or spine replaced" cause you know it makes sense. You are constantly urged to go annoy these poor professionals who, it seems, went through years of medical school and then years of specialist training just to be able to sit waiting for members of the public to come in and demand a plethera of pills or a set of procedures that they saw on the ad break between The Simpsons and Deal Or No Deal. Maybe it's a small price to pay for the high prices they charge.
After one of my trips to America, I went to see my GP about something and as an aside I mentioned that as I'd turned 50, I should maybe have a prostate exam sometime.
It's not often one sees their GP rolling on the floor convulsed with laughter - and I have to say it's slightly unnerving when it happens. Once he'd composed himself and the crash cart was wheeled out of his office, he said "you've been to America again, haven't you ?"
It appears that the NHS doesn't have the finances to allow every man over 50 a prostate exam. The working theory is that most men who develop this cancer will do so when they are over 60 anyway and, hell, that's a good lifespan after all !!! Proactive....what's that ?
But back to the commercials and I think it's because I've not grown up with these medical ads that they annoy me so much. My US friends are able to zone them out but as we don't have them here in the UK, then as soon as I hear all the medical mumbo jumbo, my ears prick up and I can't look away.
So do I feel better now that I'm back here where we don't have such ads ? Well not really as we have our own version of blanket commercials which, during weekdays anyway, are on constantly and presumably aimed at the various sections of humanity who are not out earning an honest living between the hours of 8am and 5pm - for whatever reason.
And what are they about ? Loans and debts. Debts and loans.
You get one, you get the other soon after ! It's a sort of financial BOGOF really. All day long it's one or the other.
"Having problems making ends meet ? Worried about those mounting bills ? Just got a 95" Plasma HD (Ready) Digital Mp3 Player and can't make the payments ?"
"Don't worry. Help is just a phone call away. Ring Shady-Loans-For-You right now and we'll sort it all out. We'll help you sell two of your kids into slavery and you'll be out of debt by 2075".
These cheery words are enhanced with video of a young couple sharing the phone earpiece as if it's all going on live before our very eyes. This couple have been hired for their expressive facial skills and especially their ability to place a call, get through first time, make the loan deal and do a high five all within 60 seconds. I especially like the one where hubby is so laid back about ringing for a huge loan that he's wandering around on the phone like a big kid playing with a ball and then covers the mouthpiece to confirm the loan amount with his wife as if it's some sort of afterthought.
I think if I was wanting a loan for 20 grand I'd have thoroughly discussed it and had that figure etched in my mind long before picking up the phone ! "Lets see, Mr Loan Man, I'll have £15k, no £18k.....no wait a minute, oh sod it, lets make it £20k".
Yes I know it's all supposed to be symbolic of how easy it is to get a loan but I'd really much rather have a nice bit of text slowly scrolling up the screen giving me all the info and spare me the idiotic video .
So those are the loan ads. To compliment them we have the debt ads where CONSOLIDATION is the order of the day. Bring all your debts together into.............one big debt !
Bloody fantastic idea. Brilliant. No preaching here about trying to buy things only if you have the money for it. No pontificating about financial responsibility. Hell no. You want it now, get it now. Life is too short and you NEED that car/holiday/kitchen upgrade/surround sound system/face lift/brain transplant. And what happens when the bills come in ? Lump them all together and given enough years, your grandkids will still be paying for those 'necessities' long after you've lost the ability to hold your own spoon or eat without dribbling.
The US has seriously annoying medical commercials. The UK has seriously annoying loan and debt commercials. Where is the grass greener ?
In this case, sadly neither side has a claim.