Earlier this week, I was searching for a clip of the song that Sam sang in Casablanca. No, not that song, not the “play it” song, but the other one. The upbeat one with the verse:
“Who’s got nothin?
“We got nothin”
“How much nothin?”
“Too much nothin”
“Say, nothin’s not an awful lot but knock on wood”
You can watch it here, it’s less than 2 minutes. I was searching for the song because I’ve been thinking about two different kinds of nothing.
Do you ever get to the point where someone is telling you to do something, or not to do something so many times that you feel compelled to disobey? You know, when they drone over and over until the message turns into nothing and then becomes annoying and then avoiding it becomes your mission.
For example, I have no intention of taking up smoking, but I swear if anti-smoking commercials get more blatant, gross and honest-to-the-point-of-being-absurd, I might just buy myself a pack of Lucky’s and go for it. I get it, smoking is bad. Smoking kills. But, watching ads featuring people disassembling various prosthetic body parts really isn’t reaching me. Besides, I don’t smoke! I hit mute or change channels when I see those ads.
Here’s the funny thing. Back when cigarette advertising powered the airwaves and newsstands, back when Rod Serling stood there with a Chesterfield burning in his hand, using the lit end to punctuate his description of each Twilight Zone episode. Back then, it didn’t seem like there were too many cigarette commercials.
So, either the cigarette companies had better marketing departments than the Surgeon General has today, or smoking really does make you look cool. It would be enough to remind me that those cigarettes killed Rod Serling. I’d find that more effective than the soapbox approach.
There’s a section of a nearby town called Rainbow. As far as I know, there’s really only one main road through this section and it’s not conducive to speeding. It’s kind of narrow; it has a few curves and a hill or two. Still, I guess people speed because the folks in Rainbow are all over the place with “slow down” messages. They put one of those radar units out there that posts the speed limit and shows you your speed. Honestly, I speed up a little as I approach that thing. Once, while riding my bike down the hill toward it, I shifted into the hardest-to-peddle gear I have just to try to get above the limit.
The other type of nothing is in my inbox. I get too much nothing in the form of advertising. I’m not talking about spam. I’m talking about legitimate advertising from companies that I’ve actually bought or considered buying stuff from. Two of my least favorite companies lately are Amazon and American Airlines.
Over a year ago, someone gave me an Amazon gift certificate. I used it to buy replacement knives for my Delta 12” Planner.
If you’re not a woodworker, you should know two things about a planner. Thing 1: Planners are used to reduce the thickness of a board. If you have a 6” wide board that is 1” thick and you want it to be 5/8” thick, you run it though a couple of times. 1” becomes 15/16ths and 15/16ths becomes 7/8ths and so on. Thing 2: Planners are expensive.
After buying a set of knives, Amazon followed up with a questionnaire.
“Did you like those knives?”
“Was your transaction the best customer experience ever?”
“Would you recommend Amazon to others?”
“Would you write a review of these knives?”
I get that. I get all of that. Here’s what I don’t get: Amazon started sending me emails, advertising replacement planner knives for Ryobi, Makita and Dewalt planners. How many planners do they think I own? Even worse, one of the ads was for knives for a Ryobi 13” planner. That’s like…
I started to say: “that’s like sending a woman who bought a pair of size 7 black shoes an ad for size 8 black shoes by a different designer.” But, I realized that my daughter might actually buy that second pair of shoes and they might fit. Cuz, clearly I don’t understand women’s fashion or sizes or how many shoes women need.
American Airlines has done Amazon one better when it comes to stupid. Back in August, I was checking flights from Hartford to Des Moines for my daughter. She was going to visit her cousin in Iowa over Labor Day weekend. I am still getting several emails a week from American Airlines, telling me about “great deals” on fares to Iowa.
A friend once told me: “Dan, you can’t fix stupid” but I’d like to help Amazon and American Airlines understand why people don’t want the things they looked at on their website and why they don’t want more of things they already purchased. Since they don’t seem too bright, I drew a picture.
In case you’re interested, the title of the song I was searching for is “Knock on Wood.” Ironically, there also is a song called “Too Much of Nothing.” It was written by Bob Dylan. If you want to hear Peter, Paul & Mary’s cover of that song, give a listen.