DO YOU HEAR what I hear? Hark - it's the squawk of a malfunctioning smoke alarm. It seems to be coming from that cozy little tract house down there, the one tucked ever so snuggly between the K-Mart and the Pizza Hut. Why saints alive, it's the double-insulated, aluminum-sided, primo-sashed, heavily insured domicile of none other than Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, and their 23 children Johnny, Joanie and so on.
Maybe if we sneak in just a little closer we can take a peek. Oh look. It's Christmas morning. And the family is downstairs, which really is best in a one-story house, opening their gaily wrapped presents - not too gaily wrapped, of course, but in point of fact wrapped in that amazing new house-hold discovery, Wrap-O-Matic, the fantastic packing crate, gift wrap, Scotch tape, gift card, wastebasket, canasta table and TV tray ALL IN ONE!
That's right - you guessed it. The whole Public family has watched a lot of television this year, and what they watched most was one of those delightful, clanky, trashy and tacky old UHF stations. Remember how the FCC told us that opening up UHF would mean greater diversity in programming? What they really meant, those crazy cut-ups, was utter monotony in commercials.
But the Publics are good consumers. They bought what they were told. And told and told and told. Why don't we drop in and see how things are going? Well all right, let's just do that.
"Oh John!" we hear Mrs. Public saying, "I just love my new Rondo Miniing, "I just love my new Rondo Mini-Dryer! It's the perfect Christmas gift. No more trying to pack that big half-ton hot air furnance into my teeny tiny suitcase. Of course, we never go anywhere, but just in case . . ."
"I knew you'd love it, honey. No fuss, no muss, just lustrous, smooth, satin-sheen hair!"
"Mommy, mommy, I want to open a present now."
"Okay, little Joanie, which one of the gaily wrapped packages will it be?" "Who cares? They all look exactly the same, and all their flaps are coming undone. I'll take this one.Let's see, it's, it's - oh boy, my very own Bopeel Bottle Cutter!"
"That's right, Joanie, now you can take those old, useless, worn-out bottles and turn them into beautiful lamps, vases, goblets, centerpieces, Grecian urns, baptismal fonts and hundreds of other useful and decorative ideas!"
"Mommy, mommy, it's the perfect Christmas gift."
"All right now," says Mr. Public, wisely stemming the storm tide of enthusiasm, "it's Johnny's turn."
Johnny opens his present and , lo and behold, it's just what he wanted.
"Wow!" exclaims Johnny, breathless with wonderment. "My very own Pobeel Pocket Fisherman! Now I can fish whenever so inclined!
"That's right, Johnny," says his beaming father. "Now - at last - you can fish anytime, anyplace, anywhere, anyhow, any day! Of course, we're 2,000 miles from the nearest body of water . . . "
"Aw gee Dad, it's the perfect Christmas gift! Just like I saw on TV! See? batteries, hooks, line, rod, reel, fish and body of water not included."
"Now it's my turn," says Mr. Public, and is he ever thrilled when he opens a box to find none other than a genuine Smokeless Ash Tray! "That's right, dear," notes Mrs. P. "You just stick your head in that hole and smoke to your heart's content. No muss, no fuss, no filthy fumes poisoning your loved ones!"
"Honey, this is swell, and if I ever take up smoking - say, why don't I try it right now!"
The sun has become round and full over the gleaming and spotless Ponderosa Steak House down the lane, but the happy Publics have presents still to open.
"How about this," chirps a delighted Joanie. "A genuine Conro Rhinestone and Stud Setter! Now I can turn ordinary garments into fabulous couturier fashions! I can't wait for all my friends to come over so we can have rhinestone and stude setting parties!"
"Gosh," says Dad, "you can rhinestone and stud all my suits, ties, vests, pajamas and underwear!"
"Hey," says Joanie. "I can even rhinestone and stud the exquisite objets d'arts I make out of old beer bottles!"
The merriment continues for serveral more seconds. And then good old dad gets the thrill of his life - his very own tube of Zany Glue, complete with a hard hat so he can paste his head to a steel pole and dangle about in mid-air. Mom is certainly excited with her once-in-a-lifetime J-Tell album of 400 polkas by the Eight Corpulents Canadians - all original recordings with the original artists.
"Now sold in stores," interjects young Johnny.
But that's not all. Little Joanie jumps for joy when she opens a Wrap-O-Matic'd package to find a honest-to-goodness Mailorder Venus Fly Trap inside, fly not included. Johnny is tickled pink with his Miracle Shuffler - the revolutionary household appliance that means and end to painful, irritating blisters, calouses and paper cuts. He'll never shuffle cards the old-fashioned way again!
Mom loves her indestructible Madame Fifi Pantyhose, the Pantyhose so strong they laugh at knives, razor blades, chain saws, machine guns, howitzers, B-52s, the PLO and the atom bomb! Thoughtful little Johnny had rushed just $5.95 to Box UHF, Industrial Park, N.J., and allowed four to six weeks for delivery.
But the best is saved for last.
"Is it what I think it is?" Mom asks, shaking the swishily wrapped package, its flaps flopping in the breeze.
"You'll see," says Dad, rolling his eyeballs like a mad monk.
"Hey, wait a minute," says little Joanie suddenly. "Would somebody shut off the blankety-blank smoke alarm?"
"Now dear," cautions Dad. "That smoke alarm could save all our lives. Remember the poor people we saw burn to death in that commercial the other night."
By this time, Mom'd package has virtually opened itself. And what to her wondering eyes should appear but - but -
"Meal-O-Matic! Oh John, Johnny, Joanie and Point Three! It's the perfect Christmas gift!"
"Chops, shreds, grates," says little Johnny.
"Gnarls, mauls, grinds," says petite Joanie.
"Slices, dices, minces, prances," says Dad.
"Stews, brews, roasts, toasts, bastes, wastes, creams, crams, cracks, breaks, streaks, creaks," shouts Mom.
"No more dull dinner parties!" sing the children.
"No more messy cleap-ups," laughs Dad.
"And, the worst job of all, polishing silver," notes Mom. "Hasn't this been the perfect Christmas, what with all these perfect Christmas gifts?"
"Indeed it has," says Dad.
"The most perfect of all," echos little Joanie.
"God bless us, every one, with a money-back guarantee," says little Johnny.
"But, most of all, God bless television."*