The Pits

Like weather fronts moving from west to east, B.O. is migrating from Buffalo to Rochester, NY. Like a virus, sweat is slopping its way east and being wicked up by the unwary. I lost count of how many metaphors were mixed in that sentence.

At least this is what the broadcast radio ads suggest.

A couple of years ago, I was first introduced to a novel and debilitating affliction: Sweat. From human bodies.

Largely inexplicable, it seemed, somehow sweat made its way from armpits to a so-called “clinic” specializing in “curing” what just-now appeared as an epidemic-level ailment.

Buffalo radio listeners heard ads advising and comforting them that, thankfully, help was on the way.

A sweat “clinic” staffed by certified (as opposed to?) medical personnel (no mention of physicians, one notes) would resolve people’s perspiration issues.

“Whew,” I sighed, mopping my brow.

The ads informed listeners that the problem they could cure was not simply physiological. More seriously, it was a social infringement ranking right up there with the many other contemporary civil concerns.

Not only was sweat, and its residue, unsightly, it is also capable of giving offense. Pause here to answer: what, today, does not give offense?

The clinic guaranteed that customers would receive a permanent solution to their sweat problem.

Like antiperspirant products, one has to suppose that the solution involves plugging up the holes from which the sweat makes its way from the inside out.

Well, if it doesn’t leave, then where does it go?

With a name different from the Buffalo clinic’s, ads are now presented on Rochester radio offering an identical cure to the same pesky problem.

One is reminded of the hoax pulled by Orson Welles and his colleagues. In 1938 Welles’ Mercury Theater broadcast their radio version of H.G. Wells’s 19th century science fiction novel, War of the Worlds. Orson’s crew panicked a million people who thought Martians had invaded.

Most radio listeners, it turned out, simply hadn’t been listening carefully enough, as Hadley Cantril documented in his research published in book form two years later.

One wonders how attentively we’re listening today.

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