Friday, February 06, 2004

Old people 101

This project I'm working on recently required the creation of a radio spot to promote a non-profit organization. It only had to be 30 seconds long. I had no idea it was going to take me 10 hours to make it. OK, so it might not have taken sooooo long if my plan hadn't been so ingenious.

I chose to support a project that assists the elderly in Montreal. Basically, they pair up a fogie with a yungin' and, if all goes well, they'll help them shop and get to appointments...and go to picnics...and all that sweet stuff.

Imagine how good you would feel knowing that because you gave 2 hours each week, an older person was able to continue living in their own home? I mean, no one wants to be institutionalized and it really pisses them off that just because they are scared of breaking a hip on the ice, people start treating them like they're crazy.

To promote these people properly, I was going to have to give them a voice. So I wrote a script, armed myself with an audio recorder and realized: I don't know any old people.

Well I do, but Peter and John don't count. Even with their 0/20 vision they undress me with their eyes. In fact, if they slipped on the ice in front of me, I would suspect they just did it to cop-a-feel when I pick them up.

Where could I find old people? I mean, the whole point is that they can't get out of their houses in this crappy weather! Then, then I realized just how resourceful I could be, donned my boots and headed for the food court at the mall.

Now, I don't know if you've ever approached old people with a tape recorder and some papers, but it was generally like approaching an injured bird. They get really flustered as you near them, and wish more than anything that you would just go the hell away.

These people have been harassed by soliciters for nearly as many decades as there's been electricity. If they seemed like injured birds to me surely I was a frothing rabid toy-poodle to them.

To put them at ease once I introduced myself, I assured them I was trying to sell them nothing. And when I heard myself reassuring them, I realized I sounded like a door-to-door religious recruiter. Apparently I did, because the question to follow was inevitably, "Are you one of those Jehovah's Witnesses?"

OK, so I got off to the wrong start...there was still hope. I told them I was promoting a non-profit organization, supported by credible insititutions and can assist older people in need of a little extra help with grocery shopping and other errands...

At this point they would cut me off and tell me how old they were, what diseases they'd suffered, wars they'd fought, the number of children they'd raised and to which Christian sect they are part.

Then, I would remind them that I needed them to read a sentence aloud that I would record for this commercial. The most common answer: "No no no no no. Ohhhhh, no no no no no. Good bye."

I'm sure it would have been easier to convert them to Raelianism, than get them to co-operate.

Some of the people I asked were downright rude, some were mean, some were annoying, some were scared of me, some were really wonderfully sweet...

... but it took me nearly 3 hours to find them.

Old people, my friends, are simply people who've gotten old. I fear not all of us learn to be kind to our neighbors and love unconditionally...some of us just get pissed off.

In any case, I wish I had more time to share the bloopers of the project, the strange things said and just why it is complicated to have diabetes, high cholesterol and a bum knee...

But, with limited time and space I will simply share my successes.

A delightful woman, aged 86, was kind enough to yell into the microphone: "THERE'S GOING TO BE A PARTY!"

And a delightful man, aged 80 with a thick Russian accent, yelled "RHOCK MUZEEK, RHEALLY HLOUD MUZEEK, RHEALLY HLOUD HROCK HMUSIC..."

I didn't *ask* him to say that...but he did.

And it made my day.

So, thank you to the food court crew! May the coffee be fresh and the summer come soon.

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