I was having a perfectly good afternoon, watching golf and reflecting on whittling. It’s not so much whittling as the idea of whittling that appeals to me. That I might wile away hours with only a knife and a piece of wood. That I might find a block of wood that is whittle-friendly and won’t give me a hand-rash. But mostly that I might be ready on my nephew’s birthday, when he’s like “what’s this?” and I say “it’s a dog, can’t you tell?” and he sneers as fifteen year olds will and I think I’m glad I just whittled rather than bought you something.
But my Sunday reverie is interrupted when an uninvited guest appears. Never calls, never knocks, and always seems to arrive right when Jordan Spieth is making a run. It’s then that he comes at me guns hot, with the same dire question: what are you doing to plan for your retirement? It’s not really a question because he knows the answer is jack squat. I’m speaking of course of those television commercials you corporate branding suits cannot resist running during PGA golf. What’s my problem with them? Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you.
First, timing. Would I be watching professional golf if I had anything but escapism in mind? It’s hardly the activity of a paterfamilias who has pre-funded Princeton. No, it’s the choice of a man grasping at his youth, when the world was still full of wonder and tomorrow wasn’t all about performance reviews led by that mouth-breather Dellingham from the home office.
Second, casting. That family you use to try and hook me? Wrong bait. Dad looks so squared away, with nary a worry line on his sun-kissed forehead, and a white linen shirt that somehow stays runway crisp on him all day long. By “runway crisp” I mean it doesn’t look like he slept in it after wearing it to a Foghat concert, which is how linen looks on me. So Mr. Perfect is worried – how is that supposed to make me feel better? Look at his bejeweled wife and those children, who may well have been conceived in a Vineyard Vines store. If he’s sweating retirement, what hope is there for me? They’re sailing, for heaven’s sake!
Third, I’m sorry, but I’m not finished with Daddy Warbucks. Casting him in the role makes about as much sense as airing The Insanely Smart Kid Who Killed it on His Calculus BC Exam But Might Have Gotten the Extra Credit Question Wrong as an afterschool special. I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of relatable. In fact, I haven’t been so sure of something since predicting Call of Duty – Diplomacy wouldn’t be a big seller this Christmas.
Fourth, imagery. I know what you’re trying to do. There’s dad in back, hand on the rudder, resolutely guiding his family across the whitecaps to some safe harbor. (That’s probably what you called the commercial in production, Whitecaps or I Like the Cut of Your Jib.) What happened to truth in advertising? If it were my family, my wife would be at the helm, bravely navigating while children lashed at her, Kraken-like, for juice boxes and whatnot. Meanwhile I’d be weeping uncontrollably below deck, wailing things like “hope is lost” and “we may as well just listen to Marshall Tucker.”
And that’s just the direct stuff — don’t think I’m missing the subliminal dark arts you’ve conjured up. Water, as in what I am under in my current financial state. Sailing involves being dependent on wind, something completely beyond my control. The splash of that giant, surfacing whale, a final visual to remind of the abrupt greeting retirement has in store for the unprepared, to say nothing of the whale itself. Moby Dick, anyone?
Fifth, content. Like a pitcher throwing inside, you jam me up with your message. I see why you think golf and dire financial warnings go together like pearls and pendants: you’re talking your book. But if there’s two things I love in this world it’s the taste of barbecue and the sound of Frank Sinatra. Still, you don’t see me strong-arming you to co-invest in a Pork Be a Lady Tonight franchise, do you?
If it must be this way – if just now, when I ran out for Slim-Jims, the FCC handed down some new regulations — then fine. But might I suggest, in the spirit of the times, adding the following trigger warning: Does a mason jar figure prominently in your retirement planning? Does your recent internet search history include “saving for college,” “jai alai scholarship” and “is The Marshall Tucker Band still touring” in rapid succession? If so, please change the channel.