When driving west on Fountain, just past La Brea, my gaze was struck by a billboard with haunted, sunken eyes excruciatingly close-up and with the words, "Gambling Problem?" Below appeared the 1-800 number for the California Office of Gambling helpline. Something within me answered a resounding yes, and quicker than you can say Dostoevsky, I called 1-800-GAMBLER to confess my own personal gambling problem.
"Hello, this is Ronni," said the operator. "How can I help you?"
"I have a problem," I began. "I'm very intimidated by people who sit at casino tables and look so much like they know what they're doing. I have this deep-seated fear that I'll sit down and the dealer will say, 'Place your bets,' or some other technical jargon, and the others at the table will point and laugh."
Before I could go on, Ronni interrupted me to say this was a hotline to help people with real gambling addictions. "Wonderful!," I thought. The state of California is promoting and opposing gambling at the same time. Gosh, think of all the other enterprises that may profit from this two-faced method and establish hotlines to dissuade people from buying what they're selling. Why, sales are bound to go through the roof!
A) Public TV and Radio Stations: Do you find yourself becoming a member of radio and TV stations in the spring, whose call letters you can't remember, although you joined during the winter fund drive a few weeks ago? Do you or someone you know obsessively answer calls to "do your part" and "join the 10 % who bear the burden for the 90% that get a free ride"? If you answered yes to any of these, well then pardner, press one. If you want to give your tax-deductible donation for member-supported broadcasting, please press two. If you want to scream, please press three.
B) Chewing Gum Manufacturers - If you find yourself unable to live without that sticky wad between your tooth and jaw, that long ago lost its flavor, and insist on making life hard for janitors and poor saps who get it stuck on their shoe soles--you pig! You need professional counseling on the proper handling and disposal of chewing gum. Please call Citizens for Gum Control today at 1-800-STOP GUM.
C) Mega Office Supply Stores - Do you feel guilty about roaming the bountifully packed aisles of merchandise? You see all the clever stuff, like the solar-powered calculator or boxes of stickies embossed 'sign here.' It may cross your mind that you really need to take a vacation and learn how to incorporate these fobs and novelties into your life. You don't. You've got what the American Psychiatric Association has identified as a phobic-depressive response to stationary and organizing products.
D) Los Angeles Times - Do you have a fear of bringing the Sunday Times, that Goliath of newsprint and circulars, into your residence? Do you wince at the idea of heavy lifting? You may be suffering a phobic reaction to the L.A. Times Sunday Edition. In extreme cases, sufferers have been known to take the paper, unopened and unread, and deliver it straight to the garbage. If that's the case, seek professional help immediately.
E) Schools - Feel like you must compulsively sign up for courses and crack the books? No need to keep stressing yourself out. Just say no to education. It's boring and dangerous. It can lead to the slippery slope of thinking. With your phone call, we are winning the war on Education.
* Yes, but first you must sit through a sermon on its wickedness.
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