By Bob Harris
REMEMBER that big study that was in all the papers, saying that 40 percent of men have trouble in the bedroom? Like maybe we could all do with a little Viagra now and again? Well, guess who wrote it? Two weeks ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a highly publicized report providing conclusive, scientific proof that Americans are, in precise medical terms, a bunch of linguine weenies. Practically every media outlet in the country ran with the story, since everybody loves this kind of news: If you do have trouble getting, er, perpendicular, it makes you feel like we're all in the same tiny little boat, while if you stand at attention--at ease, shall we say--it makes you feel like captain of the ship.
There was just one minor detail about the study that JAMA neglected to mention to its readers: The labcoats who wrote it were also paid consultants to Pfizer, the people who make Viagra.
Oh, gee, there's a shock.
One thing that keeps a lot of people from buying Viagra is feeling ashamed to admit there's a problem ... and all of a sudden out comes a study saying lots of people have the problem, so there's no reason to feel ashamed.
Yeah, maybe. That doesn't mean the study isn't accurate. The authors were paid by Pfizer to review clinical trial data on Viagra before the drug was submitted for government approval. There's no direct connection to the study published in JAMA, and it's entirely possible that the scientists' financial interests in no way affected their methodology and conclusions. Let's hope and assume so.
But even so, JAMA, which was informed of the connection, should have disclosed the information about the researchers' previous work for the sex drug manufacturer.
If it had, the only medicine a lot of people would be taking as a result might be a big grain of salt.
FINALLY, a personal annoyance I just want to vent about: One notch above fast-food joints are those nicer, franchised sit-down restaurants, invariably bedubbed with skin-crawlingly cutesy names that would make an Osmond choke: T.J. McCookieCutter's, Cap'n Happy's Chuckle Bucket, Ol' Mama Stifleluvin's Biskitz'n'Ribz, B.M. Misspeller's Crapulous Disgorge-O-Mat, and so on.
You know the drill: wood and brass fixtures, baseball pennants, and license plates on the walls, and a menu with little hearts next to the four entrées out of 110 that won't cause you to leave a ventricle as a tip.
A while back, the folks at a college I performed at took me to one of these places. The food was actually pretty good, but even the washroom was fixed to the gills with cloying, saccharine photos of kids with catcher's mitts, dogs licking kittens, and absurdly fat people scratching themselves.
This was all a little more visual input than I needed right that minute.
So two nights later and two states over, another college took me to another unit of the same chain. Sure enough: wood and brass, baseball pennants, little hearts ...
If you've seen the old TV series The Prisoner, somewhere in the distance you could almost hear a bald guy with goggles murmuring, "Begin program."
And then I used the washroom. To my horror, it was completely identical to the one 200 miles away. Dogs. Kids. Fat scratch fever. Right down to the molecule.
Which means some high-paid consultant has actually focus-grouped, market-researched, and maximized the profit margin on my relieving experience.
It's more than just a bathroom--it's a highly tested waste facility of fun!
Please, corporate America. For the love of God. Stop trying to please me. Stop trying to optimize me. Not everyone is comfortable on the other side of your one-way glass.
Allow us just the tiniest respite, just one brief moment of contemplation, just a single room in the world where we can escape your never-ending influence.
In short: Let my people go.
From the February 25-March 3, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.