So there I was, sitting on my mum’s couch, the flickering lights of the television floating in and out of my consciousness, when suddenly I found myself in full-alert mode. On the screen in front of me was the most incredible device I had ever seen; a Dyson Portable Digital Vacuum Cleaner. It was in the hands of an elegantly dressed woman, who was floating it across the carpet in her living room while a deep voice explained that the digital motor and special cyclone technology would inhale every last particle of dirt and animal hair. And when the woman finished the floor, she lifted the slender hose way up into the air and whisked away the dainty cobwebs hiding in the folds of her curtains.
“Oh, I need one of those,” I told my mother.
“Wha…?” she said as she roused herself from her catnap next to me. She looked at the screen. “A Dyson? Oh yes, they’re good vacuum cleaners. Be useful in your shop, wouldn’t it?”
What she meant was I’m loath to lug our regular vacuum cleaner into our pottery shop because I’m always worried that the hose will get caught around the pottery and send it flying. If I had a handheld jobber, that ran on a rechargeable battery, I could sidle it around and between the pots until all the tiny cobwebs and dead flies, all the dust from the outside and the dog hairs from our friendly greeter, Molly Moon (who is not even allowed in the shop but somehow manages to leave evidence of her presence for me to discover), would be whisked away. And undoubtedly such a magnificent example of a modern major dust-buster would encourage me to clean more often so my house would look as spic and span as the lady’s on the telly.
I whipped out my laptop and began an online search for one of these machines and was surprised to discover that they weren’t as expensive as I’d feared. It took me a moment but I did eventually realize that I was looking on amazon.co.uk, which meant the prices were in pounds sterling; I needed to turn it into dollars before I got too excited about the cost.
Part way through my computation, however, my eye was again drawn to the flickering images on the screen. This time I saw the pages of a glossy knitting magazine turning slowly, seductively, in front of me, showing me all sorts of things that could be done with a few skeins of wool. Again I felt that slight catch in my breath, that increase in my heartbeat as I became enamored of the images – and the funny thing is, I don’t even knit! But I have a friend that does, a friend that sells her wonderful creations through her Etsy Shop, and as I saw patterns moving across the screen – free patterns that were included in the magazine! – of knits that would surely appeal to my friend and expand her repertoire, I found myself thinking, “Oh, I need to get that magazine for her.”
The thing is, I’ve lived without commercial television for 30 years now and I’m not much of a shopper, nor much of a web-surfer, so I was seeing things that I didn’t even know existed. And I was finding them strangely compelling. It made me think back 25 years, to when my then 4-year old stepdaughter, Esther, said she wanted ‘Dress ‘N Dazzle’ for Christmas. My husband and I had no idea what she was talking about, not having commercial TV, but we hunted down her request and brought it home to put under the tree. And I remember feeling disappointed when she opened the box and pulled out a couple of bits of fabric and a pillbox hat with a veil on it, items that I could surely have pieced together myself (maybe with more pizzazz to them) from a thrift shop. I didn’t say anything of course. Esther looked so happy pulling the skirt up over her jammies and wrapping the sparkly chiffon scarf around her neck. And, boy, did she dazzle us! But then she always dazzled us.
Sitting on my mother’s couch, wanting – needing – so many new and amazing things, I realized that the attraction for our little Esther wasn’t necessarily in the items of clothing but in the TV commercial itself. They make everything look so glamorous. And who doesn’t want a little glamour in their life every once in a while? It’s interesting that my idea of glamour involved a state of the art vacuum cleaner but I’m pretty sure some part of me thought if I had one, I would look as neat and clean – and, yes, maybe as slender – as the lady on the television advertising them.
And has it worked? Well, I do like my new portable vacuum cleaner. I like the fact that doing the stairs is now a breezy operation that doesn’t involve me trying to stop a canister from twisting off a step and clunking its way down to the floor; and the fact that I don’t have to worry about how far I can stretch the electrical cord before it unplugs itself and I’m thwarted in my cleaning activities. And I really like the fact that it only runs for 20 minutes on its battery so I can’t vacuum clean for too long. Ha HA! But my house still looks like a house in the country, complete with paw prints and mud patties from the treads of our boots. And I – well, I still look like me. So it’s probably just as well I’m not around commercial TV too often. It’s easier on my pocketbook and my self-image. And it stops me from bringing home modern conveniences that make my puppy stare up at me, wondering why I have to turn on that noisy contraption again. It’s just a little dirt, mum!