If I'm in the car, I usually have NPR on, but it was mid-afternoon and I wasn't all that interested in the topic du jour (water on Mars), and my fall-back radio station (WUMB - the only full-time folk and acoustic station in the world) was playing too much interview and not enough music. So I turned on a third choice - an oldies station - that actually plays good sign-along music when they're not blaring mind-numbing ads.
But one of the blaring, mind-numbing ads caught my ear.
Chock Full o' Nuts is running a knock-off American Idol contest looking for someone to sing their old advertising jingle. (You could win $75K.)
In the good old days, there was little escaping the Chock Full tune - fewer stations, fewer advertisers - and it rattles around the brains of anyone who watched more than 4 minutes of TV in the 50's and 60's, along with the theme song to Gilligan's Island (which a guy I used to work with whistled non-stop - and off-key), and images of the Jolly Green Giant (ho-ho-ho) and Speedy Alka-Seltzer. (For Boston-locals, it competes for shelf-space with the old ad for Adams and Swett Carpets: How many cookies did Andrew eat? Andrew ate eight-thousand. How do you keep your carpets clean? Call ANdrew-8-8000. And with Bib Brother, Bob Embry, playing So Long, Small Fry on his ukele.)
The ad promoting the Chock Full contest had someone singing the little ditty for us - just to refresh our memories. But I noticed one very tiny little change that they'd made to update things for modern sensibilities.
What used to be "Chock Full o' Nuts is that heavenly coffee (heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee)...better coffee a millionaire's money can't buy" is now "....better coffee a billionaire's money can't buy."
Does this mean that millionaire no longer has any cachet? That it no longer holds any meaning? Does this mean that a millionaire's money can actually buy better coffee - or is that notion so ridiculous it's not even worth considering? Is there a new assumption that a millionaire's money can't buy jack these days? (And, by the way, thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the original ditty ran "better coffee a Rockefeller's money can't buy" - until Nelson Rockefeller sued.)
It's been years since I've actually stooped down to pick up a penny off the sidewalk. And I've pretty much given up on nickels and dimes, too - unless there are multiples. (I still stoop for quarters.) So I know a million ain't what it used to be.
I mean, you can sell your 1140 square foot condo in downtown Boston and become one overnight. And once you're got that dough in hand, you realize you can't retire off of it, if it's all you've got, unless you want to move to Guatemala.
Not to mention how pathetic an amount a million bucks is when considered as, say, CEO compensation. What CEO in his right mind would even bother flying his Lear jet across the street for a million lousy bucks, let alone stooping down to pick it up off the sidewalk. (Sidewalk money. Ewwwww. You don't know where it's been.)
So agreed: a millionaire can no longer be thought of as someone who is really, truly wealthy.
But is a million now such chump change that it no longer connotes any value?
Of course, it's so much easier thinking about things like this than, say, the Iraq War or global warming.
And I have admittedly wasted entirely too much time already thinking about the meaning of the Chock Full o' Nuts jingle - especially since, while my voice is adequate - especially when it comes to shower and drive-time singing - I will not be entering the contest.
No, it's just one more trivial little thing that I will no doubt continue to allow myself to dwell on - at least until I wake up one morning, clear of head, and find that the Chock Full jingle is mercifully out of it. (No more turning on oldies radio until I think the coast is clear.)
The other "ad thing" of the moment that is perplexing me - not to mention stirring up all sorts of philosophical and existential thoughts - is one now running on TV for a ski area. I have now heard this ad twice and I swear that they are telling me that I can "find my childhood" at the Bretton Woods Ski Resort. Well, if I could indeed "find my childhood" at the Bretton Woods Ski Resort I would hasten there at once. What an offer! I'd sure pay more than the cost of a lift ticket if I could find my childhood, especially if they could guarantee that I could find that really cute pique dress with the little flower carts on it that I had in kindergarten. If I could get back my Ginnette doll in her pristine state - before I Magic-Markered her eyes to make them bluer. If I could jump on the back of a milk truck and beg the milkman for a chunk of ice to suck on (nothing like diesel fuel covered ice to cool you down on a hot day). And, truthfully, I didn't have to beg so hard for the ice - half the milkmen were cousin's of my father's.
"Find my childhood." Wouldn't that be nice. (Hey, forget the Ginnette doll and the chunk of ice. What I wouldn't give to see my father after all these years...)
Unfortunately, until they invent time travel, I'm afraid that finding my childhood is just one of those things that "even a billionaire's money can't buy."
If you want to take a stroll through Chock Full o Nuts history, and listen to versions of both the millionaire and billionaire jingles, here you go.