Tito Valenti Nation
B-dubs, Rainbows, Selectors and Time Shifters (12/2003)
My name is Tito Valenti. I’m a pharmacologist. Was, anyway. No, not the kind that dispenses Ritalin to cruelly squash hyperactivity, or Prozac to artificially lift the millions of depressed, or Viagra to, er, temporarily lift the impotent. No, I dispensed a kinder, gentler class of designer pharmaceuticals. You see, I’m a nice guy. Really. I want people to enjoy themselves, to relax, to take it easy. To be happy.
I didn’t just dispense drugs – pills, to be specific – I designed them.
In the 1950s, I invented my first blockbuster pill, the B-dub. It took me over three years to perfect, but I finally did it. In many ways, I’m still the most proud of my first-born, my precious B-dub.
Physically, the pill was quite large. I hadn’t perfected my miniaturization techniques yet. My beloved B-dub was almost a half an inch across and a quarter of an inch thick. In color, I was really just starting out, so I went with a pill that was half black and half white, divided along the centerline.
The world, literally, ate it up. My beloved B-dub became the world’s beloved B-dub. Early users were so taken with the pill that word of mouth spread quickly. I made a ton of money on that baby, since I didn’t have to sign up very many distributors. That’s how strong the pull was from my users.
And what of my users? How did they react to B-dub? Oh, it changed their lives forever. After a long, hard day at work, working men everywhere were able to come home, pop a B-dub, lay out on the couch and relax. Really relax. Men all over the world were finally able to get the relaxation and happiness they deserved after their days of toil in the factories, farms and offices.
Never mind that the grass didn’t get mowed, the hedges didn’t get trimmed, the various home improvement projects went undone.
Women, too, benefited. The drudgery of daily housework was replaced with the simple pleasure of my magical B-dub. Housewives everywhere were, at least for a few hours a day, able to step away from their numbing role as glorified servants, into a numbing wonderland of relaxation and enjoyment.
Never mind that pot roast and homemade pie became Hamburger Helper and store-bought pie and then became frozen dinners complete with the built-in goopy apple pie-like dessert, or that the good china became Corel and then became paper plates.
I didn’t know it then, but real physiological changes took place in my users. Slowed, regulated breathing. Reduced heart rate. Reduced brainwave activity.
In the 1960s and 1970s, I continued my winning ways with my second blockbuster pill, the Rainbow. The Rainbow, if I do say so myself, was a beautiful pill. Where the B-dub was stylish but, well, plain, the Rainbow was a masterpiece. All the colors of the rainbow, aligned around the edge of the pill, like a color wheel. It took me another four years of R&D to get the colors to be vibrant and alive. With the Rainbow, I also figured out how to get the pill size down. Tricky business, trying to get the same amount of “punch” into a smaller package. But I did it. The Rainbow was sleek, only a quarter inch across and an eighth of an inch deep.
In the short term, I didn’t do as well financially with the Rainbow as I had with the B-dub. People didn’t seem to get why they should upgrade to the Rainbow. But, slowly, as people’s supply of B-dubs dwindled (I was the manufacturer and supplier, remember…), they began to try my little Rainbows. After a few slow years, the Rainbow finally took off.
My users loved it. The sense of comfort and relaxation that might have only lasted an hour or two with my B-dub pill, now regularly lasted two or three hours or more. Sometimes, people using Rainbows were said to enjoy them for as much as four hours each day.
I felt so proud of how much I helped my users in those days. The world was becoming an ever-increasingly dangerous, somber place, and my Rainbows helped millions of people deal with the associated anxieties, worries and doubts. For a few precious hours each day, they were able to escape into a wonderland of make-believe.
By the late 1970s, entire families began enjoying Rainbows together. Oh, I cannot describe the sense of accomplishment this was for me. Finally, families actually together, in the same room, experiencing the same sense of wonder and enjoyment together.
Never mind that family members didn’t actually talk to each other.
In the 1980s, it was time for my third wonder drug. I called this new pill the Selector. To this day, I’m not sure the using public really valued my Selector pills. It certainly was good for me financially, but I got mixed reviews.
You see, the Selector was an interesting pill. It was actually forty separate drugs (seventy separate drugs in my Selector Premium that came out a few years later) in one. But when you took it, you could only choose one particular drug, one particular effect. So my users could take a Selector and decide they wanted to feel upbeat, joyful and silly. Or, they could take a selector and decide to be calm, mellow, relaxed. Or sad, even. And, as I said, there were forty (or seventy!) effects to choose from. You name the mood desired, the Selector could deliver. The pill was the most technologically advanced of my career.
But I would often hear that people didn’t like paying the fairly high price for the Selector (or the even higher price for the Selector Premium) only to get just one effect or mood at a time. People said they wanted the variety – and, lucky for me, paid for it – but often said they didn’t need or use it in the end, often choosing the same effect each day. Sometimes, even, people complained that even with forty (or seventy) choices, they sometimes felt like there just wasn’t an effect they wanted to experience.
Physically, the Selector was the same diameter as the Rainbow, but was a sort of “double-decker” pill-on-top-of-a-pill. The smaller pill on top was used to control which drug effect to emit from the bottom, main pill. After ten years of R&D, that was the best solution I could come up with.
With my users, the Selector was a success. A booming success. Some of my users began using for five or more hours a day. It was quite common to hear about people using eight or more hours a day! Imagine! Your choice of on-demand doses of fun, relaxation, silliness, serious reflection, controlled anxiety (always with a tidy resolution), you name it anytime you want, day or night.
My users became some of the most sated people on the planet. Along with eating more and exercising less, my Selectors were, literally, shaping the world.
Never mind that people were less productive at work, or that entire industries migrated from the U.S. to those few countries with limited use of my designer pills.
In the mid-1990s, I began selling my fourth – and final – pill. My Time Shifter, as I called it, was an incredible feat. And it provided my users a set of incredible advantages over older pills, even my own.
With the Time Shifter, my users could take a pill at one point in time, but then actually control when they wanted to experience the effects of the pill. My users could even temporarily stop the effects of the pill, and then resume the effects later. Can you believe it? It’s true. Now, my users were able to “partake” in the morning, enjoy for a little while, then go to work and, if desired, temporarily suspend the effects of my wonder drug if and when the boss came by, then resume at any time. And not a drop of the pill’s “punch” was lost when people utilized this feature! It took me several more years in the lab to ensure this.
And it gets better! My users could pop a Time Shifter, enjoy it for a while and then, at any time, if they wanted, could put its effects on hold in order to enjoy another one of my pills (or, I suppose, to do something other than use one of my products). Amazing, yes?
As you can see, I was – am still, in some depressing, character-flawed way – proud of my accomplishments. The entire world has changed in thirty or forty short years, and I don’t think I’m being egotistical when I say that I think I was the main reason why. Users now regularly partake eight or more hours a day, often much more on the weekends.
I would say, Never mind that the country is now full of fatter, lazier, dumber, less inspired and inspiring people sitting atop their couches and La-Z-Boy recliners on their ever-widening behinds.
But, somehow, I do mind. Amazingly, I have come to mind.
What have I done?
What have we all done?
Is it too late to change our ways?
I don’t know, but I’m going to do everything I can to open people’s eyes to this horrible problem. That’s why I wrote this. I sincerely hope you’ll take it to heart, understand its true meaning, and then pass it on to everyone you know. Please. We owe it to ourselves to watch less television.
In case you didn’t get the metaphors…
B-dub: Black and white TV
Rainbow: Color TV
Selector: Cable TV
Time Shifter: Tivo/DVR