has five grandchildren and does not watch TV news with them
I decided it was time to get my 11-year-old grandson more interested in current events, and thought we could watch the evening news together. In time, I hope, he'll read newspapers - if they're still around.
I did have some doubts about exposing him to "real life." After all, he still believes in the Phillies. And I realized I would have to answer lots of questions and explain some unpleasant things. Like any grandfather, I felt up to the challenge. I would be the professor and he the star-struck student.
He would see famine in Africa, boys his age not having food. He would hear about airplanes disappearing, the passengers never being seen again. He would see mothers and fathers buried under mud slides or killed in fires. He would see ravages of war, bloodshed both overseas and on our own streets at home.
Before we began, I decided to watch it myself as if he were next to me. As the umpteenth report on Flight 370 came on the screen, I mulled over how I would explain the sudden disappearance of 239 people. I would assure him it wouldn't happen to him the next time he flew to Disney World. If he asked how I could be so certain, I would ignore him, pretending my hearing aids were on the blink. As for earthquakes, mud slides, and the other cruelties of Mother Nature, I would explain that the odds of something like that happening in Philadelphia are as remote as the 76ers having a three-game winning streak.
With practice, I was confident, I could enable him to watch the news without having nightmares.
But as I continued watching, I started to panic. Not because of the news. I became worried about explaining the commercials.
First up was an ad for Viagra, with a couple getting all cuddly after the old man took a pill. How do I explain that to my grandson?
But that was just the beginning. Quicker than an old man could put on his adult diapers, there were drug ads for emphysema, high cholesterol, improved fiber for better bowel movements, and testosterone to increase your sex drive.
Worse, every commercial stressed all the things that could go wrong by taking the very medicines that were supposed to cure you: possible heart attack, liver disease, stomach pains, internal bleeding. Even death.
How would I explain all these medical conditions to him and assure him he didn't have to worry? "But what about you, Grandpa?" I imagined him saying. "What's your T-level? Do you take Viagra?"
"Shut up, kid, and mind your own business," I would tell him.
Before the news was half over, I started to reconsider my bright idea. But the clincher came when a commercial popped up for some medication I had never heard of - for good reason, as it turns out. It was for atrophic vaginitis, otherwise known as vaginal dryness. The ad featured an attractive-looking woman with a sexy smile unbuttoning her blouse. The announcer's consoling voice then starts talking about "painful intercourse after menopause." I'm stunned. I would be embarrassed watching this with my wife, let alone my grandson. I wouldn't begin to know how to explain this condition to him.
All this is what's being shown on national television at 6:55 in the evening - the sun is still up. I thought parental controls on television sets were for shows like Playboy After Dark, not CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.
The ads settled the matter for me. No way am I watching the news with my grandson.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.