The elderly just didn’t get it

By Barney Keller

I called Ben Weintraub the other day.

Ben is my great-uncle; he is 77 and cannot hear too well anymore.

I told him it was his nephew.

“Who? WHO is this? Nancy!” Ben often yells for my Aunt Nancy when he can’t figure out who is on the phone.

I asked Ben what he thought about the recent bomb scare in Boston, in which a couple of “artists” placed flashing LED advertisements for the Adult Swim show Aqua Teen Hunger Force—complete with duct tape and protruding wires—in train stations, under bridges, and next to major highways. Incredibly, someone reported them. The city came to a halt for hours until Turner Broadcasting admitted the signs were part of a multi-city “guerilla marketing” campaign for the forthcoming and eagerly awaited Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie.

“The WHAT?” bellowed Ben.

I asked to speak with Aunt Nancy.

“Oh my god I almost died,” she said. “I thought it was September 11th all over again.”

But what about the fact that no other city besides Boston thought they were bombs?

“I honestly don’t care about that, Barney, those other cities, well…they’d be crazy to not call those in!”

But didn’t you know about Aqua Teen Hunger Force? My friends all think that everyone in Boston is just paranoid.

“Aqua WHAT? What are they selling?”

I tried to explain that it was a cartoon about a Mooninite. I could hear Ben yelling for Nancy in the background.

“I don’t care what it was! Barney, Ben almost had a heart attack!”

I tried to call my grandparents, but they’re in Florida for the month to play tennis and, thankfully, aren’t sitting by the phone waiting for more news of cultural insanity. But the panic that enveloped my aunt and uncle and countless other “unhip” Bostonians got me thinking about the generation gap and the debt our peers owe the old folks.

A quick Google search revealed that the Mooninite signs were slapped up in cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Like Boston, these are the mother lodes of the coveted 18–25 demographic, a generation with few obligations, time and money to waste on animated crap, and a keen appreciation for its own private sense of humor and irony. Noticeably, they did not post them in West Palm Beach or Boca Raton, which is good, because I do not wish for my grandfather, who is already a bad driver, to freak out when he drives under a bridge. He doesn’t deserve that.

One Boston blogger wrote that the men who put them up should not face felony charges. I disagree—this is exactly the kind of moment our generation needs to learn a lesson about humility and responsibility. You don’t get to be an idiot just because you watch cartoons.

True, the elderly aren’t young anymore. Lack of youth is a prerequisite for being old. And when they do watch TV, it’s usually Fox News or dated reruns, with the volume cranked up to the loudest possible decibel level.

In Boston, they got a nasty scare from the Mooninite invasion. But when the two “performance artists” who posted the ads in all those sensitive locations were arraigned for disorderly conduct, they snickered in court and turned a post-arraignment press conference into a sham, refusing to answer any questions not related to hairstyles of the 1970s, yet another promotion for a pothead late-night cartoon. (You can see them making fools out of themselves on YouTube.)

No respect, and no empathy for the frightened elderly. Surely our generation can do better than this. My remedy: we cut off their hair and give it to my grandfather, who has none. They should then have to wear a tattoo of the Mooninite on their foreheads. That might be overreacting. Or it could be brilliant “guerilla advertising.” Maybe one day, if I do poorly in life and lose my soul, I too could be an ad executive.