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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, November 9, 2023
8:05pm

Now I’ve seen it all.

When I got in the car to go grocery shopping today there was an ad. On my dashboard.

A big blue square ad telling me to buy SiriusXM and get a special price and here is the number to call.

Perhaps you missed the first part of that. Allow me to repeat it.

There was an ad.

ON MY CAR DASHBOARD.

Some people pay less for their mortgage than what I pay for this car, and now I have to look at ads when I want to go to the grocery store?

In the infamous words of my father: you have GOT to be kidding me.

I tried to figure out how to get rid of it. There are about a thousand buttons in my car, none of which I know what to do with. Here is the extent of my interest in what that car does: turn on, turn off, blow cool air, blow warm air and tell me how to get to the theater in Nashville so we can see our second opera on Sunday.

And by the way, that last one is iffy because there is a button in the car that you push to get navigation, the button that I’ve pushed for the past ten years every time I wanted navigation, until one day about two weeks ago when I pushed it and it wanted to connect to Bluetooth but couldn’t find any devices.

But I digress.

There was an ad on my dashboard and pushing the warm air button or the navigation button or the off button wasn’t going to help. So I started pushing other buttons. I found one that turned on the rear windshield wiper. At least now I know I have a rear windshield wiper. I found one that put the car into Comfort Traction mode, which I don’t even want to guess what that does.

I moved the steering wheel, turned up the volume on the radio, reset the mileage, but couldn’t find the “get this ad off my dashboard” button.

I did, however, manage to duplicate the ad on the Heads Up display, which is the one that pops up like a hologram on your windshield to show you directions when your navigation button is working and not trying to connect to your phone.

So now I have an ad on my dashboard AND on my windshield.

Right about then I wanted SiriusXM to die.

I imagined all manner of scenarios in which instead of making a right to go to the grocery store I made a left and went to the dealership where – in further infamous words from my father – I blew a gasket and told them what to do with their ads on dashboards.

Eventually I did get rid of it, but don’t ask me how. Persistence in pushing buttons, I guess. Some button changes the dashboard display to give you different metrics and I found the non-ad version.

I was just beside myself. I mean, are there even words to describe the outrage of an ad on my car dashboard? As if I’m getting it for free and they have to make money somehow!

Which of course leads me to the real point: ads must die.

I get it. People have to get paid. If you want to read your free websites and watch your free videos and use your free apps, you’re going to pay in other ways. With your attention, and probably your privacy, and definitely your sanity.

But somehow there has to be a limit. There has to be some measure of restraint on the screeching consumer culture that strangles us every day.

Used to be you had to sit through ten minutes of commercials if you wanted twenty minutes of a sitcom. You dealt with it, because┬ánobody tracked you watching it, and you didn’t – at least until cable, anyway – have to pay for a subscription so you could be advertised to. More importantly, the TV producers ended a scene, played a commercial, then opened another scene.

Now you can be in the middle of watching a video on YouTube and literally in the middle of someone’s sentence in the middle of a word it will cut to an ad. After the ad you’ll get the rest of the sentence or syllable.

I know you can skip some of these ads after five or six seconds, but do you know what happens if you don’t? They go on FOR A HALF HOUR. I’m not even kidding, there have been nights where Ralph dozes off in front of some video he’s watching and I’ll only catch it in the background when I’m wondering why he’s listening to a video about getting a degree in theology from some online Christian university. That’s when I find out an ad started and half an hour later it’s still going.

I mean, who stops watching a show and then inserts an entirely other show into the middle of it and watches that before finishing the first show? It’s preposterous.

Of course if you really want to wreck your brain, try using the internet for five seconds without an ad blocker. I have THREE of them that all work in conjunction to stop things from flying out and popping up and playing videos and strobing banners. I still get ads, but believe me, it’s nothing compared to the psychosis that occurs without the blockers.

Once in a while I have to turn the blockers off because certain sites won’t work with them. Banking sites don’t like blockers. Streaming sites don’t like them. I can’t watch football – in spite of paying for the network I watch it on – if I have an ad blocker on.

Which means that sometimes I forget to re-enable them.

When that happens I really feel like I want to file a police report for assault and battery.

To be sure that I would not write this with any hyperbole whatsoever, because there is truly no need to, I turned off my ad blockers and went to some random recipe site.

No fewer than two videos began auto-playing at once, because I have two ears after all, so that’s not a problem. An ad across the top was blinking and flashing. Another video started playing when I got halfway down the page while the first two followed me wherever I went. An ad flashed on the sidebar and kept switching up like a billboard in Times Square, another banner played an animation at the bottom of the screen, and a giant popup window wanted me to sign up for more!

Please, give me more. I crave it.

Long gone are the days when there was an ad inserted on the page after every few paragraphs. Now you’re lucky that there is a paragraph anywhere at all.

Maybe people should stop giving me so much “free” content and figure out how to make money that doesn’t require inciting slack-jawed stupefaction. No wonder I can’t see the calendar reminder that’s right in front of my face. Those brain cells were wiped out by the last ad for La Lechera. (See, I told you I really watched the ads. That is how much I love you.)

I get it. People have to make money. There just has to be another way. The internet is essentially unusable without an ad blocker. It’s not that I want to deny these people their four cents. It’s that they make it impossible for me to support them unless I want to become braindead in the process.

It’s gotten to the point that if a site won’t let me use an ad blocker, unless it’s my banking site or something I need to access, I just won’t use it. I can’t. I have a limited number of brain cells and I feel them dying every time I have to watch another ad.

If just one person today decides to make money without being an ad proxy, an angel gets its wings. I suspect, however, that heaven will be very empty.

Photo: A screen shot of the thesaurus site that I often use – ad blockers off for demonstration purposes. I did not alter it in any way whatsoever. And that’s just the four I could capture at once.