The boy is terrified – T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D. – of the anti-smoking commercials currently airing on TV featuring individuals who often have died from lung cancer, but filmed themselves shortly before their deaths to deter others from picking up smoking as they did. As soon as he hears the first distinctive sound of someone speaking through a voice prosthesis, he screams, claps his hands to his ears, and runs – sprints – from the room crying. And rest assured, he won’t stop crying for a long, long time to come.
His fear has grown so large it’s come to encompass all commercials, in general. As soon as a commercial comes on – including on TVs in restaurants – he panics, covers his ears, and turns his head with such a frightened expression it hurts my heart.
So, just turn off the TV? We could, but the commercials typically come on during college basketball games – and the boy, like the rest of us, has been infected with March Madness. His particular case runs strong and deep, and it seems unfair to take away something he enjoys – and should be able to enjoy – so much. So we’ve devised a system: As soon as commercials come on, he leaves the room, we mute the TV, and we call him back when the coast is clear. So far so good.
We actually hadn’t seen a single one of the commercials all day long – and then, when we thought he was already asleep, one began in the split second before, having let our guards down, we could reach the remote. IMMEDIATELY we heard him scream, and I headed upstairs to the call of: “Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!”
But he actually hadn’t heard the commercial. He’d been awake – probably because every light in his room was on to ward off the scary thoughts the commercials had left in their wake. He was screaming because at the exact moment the commercial had aired downstairs, the alarm clock in his room – an alarm we never set; the clock isn’t even set to the right time, we just use it as a sound machine – had mysteriously gone off, and was beeping such that he couldn’t hear a thing from downstairs. It was a scary noise, to be sure, but not a nightmare-inducing sound like the commercials have been for weeks.
And it happened at exactly the moment we heard the first word of the ad begin downstairs.
Things that make you go… Whoa.