I would like to know whom subway ads are marketed towards. Not me, surely. My guess is that it’s for people that watch the local nightly news. Grim people with a sick obsession for knowing about every stabbing, neighborhood rape spree, and other various horrifying things that are generally out of one’s control. These are the people who don’t realize that the awareness of such only inspires them to be a suspicious apartment hermit. Or maybe they do and they’re okay with that. In which case, these people are truly sick. I prefer to remain blissfully ignorant. Safe in a bubble of naivety, because, in the end, what the hell can I do about anything?
The subway walls as of late have been well, rather depressing. The first time I noticed the fear mongering I was subconsciously absorbing every time I traveled via subway was a series of photographs depicting the indecipherable interior of an open body next to a person wearing an oxygen mask. There were other images that I have blocked out of memory. The moment was very reminiscent of one time at Valley Bob’s Driving School, when I spent one air-conditioned afternoon watching Red Asphalt with twenty other fifteen year olds. For those of you know don’t know, Red Asphalt is a midcentury scare tactic classic “documentary”. It’s is pretty much like watching that scene from American History X involving a sidewalk and a man’s face being split in two over and over and over again until you need to leave the room. The purpose of course being to inform teenagers of the dangers of driving, as well as a real graphic education on what your insides look like when worn on the outside.
Aside from all of the unsolicited gore, my main problem with this subway message was that whatever it was trying to communicate was lost on me because the words were in Spanish. There was no context for what I was looking at, and that made it ever the more disturbing. The image of moist, red, veined flesh being poked by some silver instruments was enough to make me throw up. Literally, I didn’t eat all day after I saw it.
There comes a point when marketing is overtly invasive. This was one of those times. I refuse to watch medical shows on the Discovery Channel because I am overly squeamish. I flip through the channels and if I accidentally catch a squirt of blood coming out of a body tarped with a thin blue paper sheet, I close my eyes, scream “Oh my God!” and press furiously on the channel changer. The fact that I have to sit underneath this photograph for eight stops against my will makes me both nauseous and totally peeved.
I got off of the subway that day wondering if what I had been subjected to was actually legal. If so, it shouldn’t be.
Later, on yet another subway ride, the same series of images was plastered above my head, only this time it was accompanied by English subtitles. The gruesome tactics were apparently being used as an anti-smoking campaign. I felt a little bit better for a few reasons:
1) It gave the gore context.
2) Smoking is, in fact, bad. Sorry, dudes.
Even though I am a die-hard nonsmoking advocate, I still don’t want to get on the subway and see this shit. I’m just trying to get from Point A to Point B. Just because I buy a MetroCard doesn’t mean I’m signing up to be a captive audience for preachers with a high tolerance for the sight of blood and open-heart surgeries.
Yesterday, while riding down from Chelsea, I saw a poster I had seen before. On it was a solemn looking African American male, his eyes downcast and his mouth in a pensive, droopy frown. The accompanying pseudo thought bubble read, “I wish there was something I could have done to help her” next to the campaign slogan “Abortion changes you.” There should be an ad for antidepressants next to it because that’s what I’m going to need after taking public transportation for the coming years.
Next time I take the subway, I’ll just make sure to stare at the passengers and not at the walls. Then again, sometimes that gets pretty depressing, too.