Game Show Mind Set, the results are in

Here’s what I discovered the hard way: when I’m playing Name That Tune In 3 Notes, I never hear the song. I can never savor the music, linger over the lyrics or sway to the rhythm of the beat.

I’m always on to the next thing.

My buzzer brain, my game show mentality, finished your sentences in my head before your mouth spit out the words. In the first few moments of what you were saying, I already knew where you were going, had raced ahead and sat there waiting for you to catch up. I tried desperately to not appear distracted or bored (having learned-again, the hard way- that doing so was off putting) but my tapping foot usually gave me away. There were times that the person I was listening to did actually take an unexpected direction in their remarks, but I was always tuned in enough and more than quick enough to adjust and beat them down that path as well.

I wasn’t always helpful but I was rarely confused.

I was wrong often enough, but never uncertain.

After all, it was only a game.

What I couldn’t understand, what truly confused me, was that I never felt close to anyone. In spite of all of my listening, my answers and my understanding, none of it seemed to bring you closer to me, or me to you. This included friends, family members and romantic interests. I fixed things. I solved things. I predicted things. I answered things.

What I didn’t do was to get to know you.

I named your tune but didn’t hear your music.

And I didn’t let you get to know me. I kept everything and everyone at arm’s length. Including myself.

Clever me. Unhappy me. I was playing the game well enough but I wasn’t winning in the ways that I had thought.

None of this could have been articulated at the time. It was, however, an aching feeling. Undefined but undeniable. A void. Something was hollow that should have been full.

It wasn’t my work life that suffered. I was suitably promoted and compensated because of my nimble problem solving abilities. I was fast tracked constantly, which only seemed appropriate.

What failed to appear was the emotional grand prize that I presumed would accompany the outside accomplishments. I had anticipated that my happiness would simply emerge from the pile of points I had accumulated everywhere.

In some very real way I was like that 8 year old kid in the penny arcade who was racking up hundreds of tickets paid out from the skittle ball game and feeling as if he was winning big time, only to find out at the check-out counter that it required 1,000 tickets to redeem a tiny bouncy ball, or 2 pencils or a rubber spider. There was shock, disbelief and a bit of anger.

This was unfair. This was not right. Something went very wrong. Someone should have told me.

Much later in my life, out of curiosity, I went and watched the faces of other children as they stood with their parents at one of those redemption counters. Their reactions mirrored my own. They would look into the case, recount their tickets and look up at their parents (who had some explaining, apologizing and consoling to do). Then there would be a protest (levels varied), tears (drama varied) followed by the head drop.

It was the head drop that always broke my heart.

Someone should have explained this to them. Someone should have explained that points and tickets can never be redeemed for anything of real value. Someone should have, before they ever started playing the games, explained to them what really was going on and what really mattered.

Young heads and older heads should never have to drop like that.

We all have some explaining to do.




Game Show Mind Set

I must apologize to any of those readers from countries other than the United States. This blog in particular may be difficult to connect with your own experiences. It will, however, provide you with an insider’s view of our culture…thin sliced.

I grew up during the earliest stages of television as a communication media and, like television itself, couldn’t really tell the difference between good TV and bad TV in the beginning.(Apparently, TV execs still can’t tell the difference, but I sure have learned how to) All TV was interesting, i.e. good, because it was TV. Anything was better than chores, homework or listening to your parents.

One successful program format from the very start was the ‘game show’. Ordinary people competed for prizes under a variety of rules and conditions. Most of the formats involved contests like solving a simple riddle, naming a song, filling in a blank to complete a sentence or form a word and so on. There was usually a buzzer or bell of some sort and the object was for the contestant to be the first to buzz (or ring) with the correct answer.

This format was not unlike the classrooms I was being taught in. There were many times when the teacher(s) would ask a question addressed to the class as a whole and the ones who thought they knew the answer would shoot their arms straight up (first if possible). Being the first to raise your hand didn’t guarantee that you would be called on to answer (unfair, I know) but it did always count for something. You could see it in the teacher’s eyes.

So, as a result of my classroom conditioning and TV viewing, I developed what I refer to as my buzzer brain. Here’s what that meant to me internally: whenever the situation in front of me posed a question or needed to be figured out, my brain went into game show mode. I wanted to be the first to answer, the quickest to figure out what was actually happening and to hit that imaginary buzzer. I honestly (but unspokenly) felt that there would be a prize or reward of some sort for being so good at this game called life. If nothing else, I would be declared a winner after all the points I had racked up. And being a winner, in America, was always the goal. The point. At least that’s what I was told.

So, mentally, my life became a trivial pursuit.

I hoarded tons of useless information in the same way as my Depression Era grandparents hoarded scraps of wood, loose screws, random nails, nuts/bolts/washers, pieces of tin foil, burnt out light bulbs, broken toilet seats and so on and so on… Their rationale was a refrain: “You never know when it might come in handy”.

That became my first mantra. (long before I knew what a mantra was)

This buzzer brain, this game show mentally, would have fizzled out on its own eventually, except that I seemed to have an aptitude for it. In other words, not all of my answers were wrong. In fact, the percentages of my correct answers were sufficient that I was encouraged to keep hitting the buzzer. Encouraged by other people no less, who kept asking me questions. Not necessarily important questions but my brain didn’t make any distinction in categories…questions were still questions…answers were answers…points were points…

And besides, all I really wanted was to hit the buzzer.

stay tuned





The Need to Know

It has always amused me when I’m watching a fictional story (TV show, movie, national news) when one of the characters is asking the relevant questions and they’re told that they can’t be given those answers because that information is available only on a ‘need to know basis’.  The Truth is always Classified. The reality of a situation is above their pay grade. The character and the audience both know that whatever that something is, whatever is being kept secret, isn’t flattering (mildly phrased) to someone. Someone has something to lose. Someone is protecting someone or something. From the truth.

Of course, this is all in the fictitious arena of entertainment…and the nightly news. I include the nightly news because, on a daily basis, people in that business are making editorial decisions as to what it is they think that we, the people watching, need to know. They choose which stories to run, which to quash, which to follow up on and which to let fade away. Decisions are made that reflect their judgment as to what we need to know and what they think will drive revenue. Decisions that we will never know about. Moreover, we won’t ever know the true basis for their decisions. Even the people within that business are informed on a need to know basis. Pursuing the truth can cost you your job, perhaps your career.

I mention this because we forget sometimes. Quite often actually. We forget that when we enter a stage or movie theatre, one of the requirements of the audience is to bring “a willing suspension of disbelief “. Otherwise, we wouldn’t enjoy the show, the story, the acting and the drama. We would simply be sitting there telling ourselves and each other that none of what we’re seeing is real, that none of what they’re saying is actually true. But none of that matters. We enjoy a good story so much, we’re willing to be swept away by the fiction.

That’s understandable in a theatre.

What has become increasingly confused, however, is the distinction between entertainment and information. Most of us will sit in front of the television to receive both. It was only a matter of time before we, ourselves, were no longer demanding a clear separation between the two. We, through our viewing preferences, indicated that we wanted our information to be more entertaining and our entertainment to contain more factual information. The people in that business were only too willing to oblige. After all, they’re in business to make money.

This is not an indictment. This was not a conspiracy.

But we have incrementally, and now systematically, neutralized what used to be one of the most forceful checks on the wrongdoing of institutions, governments agencies and big business. We have neutralized the outrage of an informed public because we no longer know what to believe from the primary sources of our information. They have been compromised. They do not seek to level the playing field with accurate information and full disclosure. They do not let the chips fall where they will. They are in the business of selectively steering the chips into their pockets.

Again, I must state that this is not an attack on anyone or the news media in particular. This unhealthy progression took place within the course of normal human events and situations. We, ourselves, fell asleep in front of the whole process.

All I’m asking is for you consider that, not only do we have the need to know, we have the right to know.

Our collective well being depends upon it.