Humor by Greg Schwem

I have come to the conclusion that all programming, be it movies, television shows or even content coming from our home video cameras, needs a new rating classification. I call it NSFCPP: Not Suitable for Certain Public Places.

This idea first began percolating 10 years ago when I had LASIK surgery, a brief and relatively painless eye procedure that gives patients 20/20 vision providing they don't mind having a total stranger peel back their corneal flap, causing temporary blindness. Try finding that little-known fact on a LASIK website.

When I entered the waiting room, eight other patients sat in a semicircle, anxiously anticipating their turns. Their soon-to-be altered eyes were glued to a lone flat-screen monitor. On the screen, I saw a rapidly twitching eyeball and a surgical instrument hovering next to it. Then I saw the tool pluck an edge of the cornea and actually lift it. I turned away but not before putting two and two together.

The eye belonged to the patient who had just entered the surgical room. All the other patients were witnessing what was about to happen to them. The macabre scene made about as much sense as running a loop of Evel Knievel's Caesars Palace motorcycle crash in a Harley-Davidson showroom.

Two years ago, I was summoned for jury duty. While I didn't get picked to serve on an actual jury, I did spend an entire day in a waiting room where a lone television was showing "The Jerry Springer Show." Many of the potential jurors were gearing up for their duties as deliberators of justice by arguing whether the man on screen was a "scumbucket" or a "dirtbag" for cheating on his wife. I'm sure that made for interesting voir dire proceedings.

"Mr. Johnson , will you be able to render a fair and impartial verdict?"


"Thank you. You are excused."

Just last week, I sat in my broker's office, awaiting his arrival. Glancing at my watch, I vaguely heard somebody discussing bathroom remodeling.

I looked up and saw the discussion was coming from the overhead TV monitor, which was tuned to HGTV, the Home & Garden network. I found that strange considering U.S. financial markets had been open for two hours.

"How come CNBC isn't on?" I asked the receptionist. "Or Bloomberg Television? Or something finance related?"

"We used to have CNBC," she replied. "But it was upsetting the clients."

Bravo, I thought. At least somebody agrees with my NSFCPP concept. In a world where entire countries are teetering on bankruptcy, why let an elderly investor watch his retirement nest egg lose 30 percent of its value in the time it takes his broker to visit the restroom? Better to watch programs where a half hour is spent discussing proper begonia placement.

Whatever happened to Muzak in public facilities? Nowadays, instead of listening to a Captain & Tennille song on an elevator ride, we are forced to watch CNN on a 2-inch television screen. If that day's news contains a story about a high-rise elevator cable that inexplicably snapped, so be it.

The motion picture industry has a rating system that warns me about potentially offensive content. I can install a V-chip in my home television to block programs that I don't want my children to view. But if an airline wants to show "Alive" as its in-flight movie, I have two choices: close my eyes for the flight's duration or endure a film about a plane crash on a snowy mountain and survivors who resort to cannibalism.

So if you work in a public institution and there's a television, LCD monitor or Jumbotron in your midst, give some thought to what should and should not appear on screen. Below is a partial list of public facilities and corresponding programs that should carry my new rating:

Grocery stores: The entire Food Network.

Doctors' offices: "House M.D.," "Grey's Anatomy," anything starring Dr. Oz and all C-SPAN debates where the subject is health insurance.

Gas stations: Any news footage from the Middle East. I don't need to be reminded why I'm paying $4 a gallon

Hardware stores: All home improvement shows. Some of us will NEVER be able to build a patio deck in two hours no matter how easy the host makes it look.

Public schools: All monitors should be removed immediately. Kids today watch too much television.

Wrigley Field: Sports bloopers. Yes, they are entertaining but bear too close a resemblance to what is actually taking place in front of the spectators.

Humorist Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad

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