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

Monday, October 16, 2023

Blame it on the time of year but as I stood in front of the gas pump today filling up my tank, the word zombie sprang to mind.

I’ll tell you why.

It was a peaceful fall morning. Misty, chilly, gray. The misty-gray made the colors of autumn stand out. The chilly put the construction trucks on pause. It was grocery shopping day and I was ready to go out and fill my cart with Brussels sprouts and Honeycrisp apples.

I wasn’t even in a rush.

Monday notwithstanding, all systems were Go.

Then I stopped to get gas.

The minute I got out of the car I was bombarded with the sound of news and ads playing on multiple TVs at once. That’s right, TVs. At the gas station. I’m not even talking about the little screens on the pump. I’m talking about full-fledged televisions hanging on the walls above every single one.

Apparently we do not get fed enough media all day long because those four and a half minutes in front of the gas pump must be filled with noise, too.

I looked around at the half dozen people filling their gas tanks and everyone was standing there slack-jawed and staring at the TV screens.

That was when I thought about zombies. Because really, is that what we have been reduced to? A bunch of people who can’t even stop at a GAS STATION without needing to know exactly what is happening in the next town and which drug is going to cure our left toe pain?

I swear if I was conspiracy-minded I’d think it was an evil master plan to turn us into drooling lemmings that will eventually dive off a cliff on command.

By the way, let’s clear something up right now: lemmings don’t actually fling themselves off cliffs. It is a myth born out of a Disney movie that lemmings blindly follow the leader to their death. You might be surprised to learn that the makers of that movie actually threw lemmings off a cliff to get the footage of them doing it.

Maybe if people weren’t so busy staring at Levitra ads at the gas station they might have a minute to learn these things.

Given my attempt to be less consumed by consuming, the Big Brother nature of it was all the more startling to witness.

You can’t even turn down the volume. It blares at you the entire time. If you turn away from your own personal gas pump television, you end up staring into someone else’s.

That primed me for my trip to the grocery store where I paid attention to what everyone was doing. It was kind of a split. There are the old people like me who walk around wondering where the heck the scallions are, who occasionally bump into each other then smile and apologize, and there is everyone else who push their carts while staring face down into their phones or who are plugged into headphones holding up entire conversations with thin air, who run you over and keep going.

In the end it made me all the more determined not to be one of the latter. To relinquish zombie status and exist in the world. To unplug from being spoon-fed media and advertising and stop consuming the watered down version of life that streams at you through a screen.

This weekend, other than writing my blogs, I turned the computer off and didn’t look at a thing on it until this morning. I did my puzzle. I wrote on paper. I made tea and tasted rye without the aid of anyone’s instructions or tasting notes. I even… wait for it… sat down for a few minutes and did nothing at all.

I did watch football, because I enjoy it, but I also muted the commercials every single time. I mean, there is only so much screeching about Taco Bell’s breakfast taco that a person can tolerate.

I don’t know when we got to the point that we can’t pump gas or pick up a roll of toilet paper without being prompted to eat Burger King, without checking email or seeing what’s up on Instagram, but I’m over it. I’m not dead yet, and I don’t want to be undead, either. I’m going back to my pencil and I think I’ll sit next to Hello Kitty and stare at the wall for a while. If you want me, send smoke signals. Carol Lynn out.

Photo: why do I have a picture of a gas pump? No idea. But it came in handy. Given gas prices, this was most certainly NOT from today.