I’m sitting hereon my cozy couch watching a marathon of the T.V. program “Locked up Abroad.” Why I’m attracted to these kinds of shows I don’t know. I probably should change the channel and watch something cultural like “Antiques Road show” or something, but I get hooked. I guess it’s because I take a strange comfort in knowing there is someone, somewhere who has it worse than me. There’s nothing that takes your mind off the dog puking on the carpet like seeing video of someone serving time in a Turkish prison. My astronomical cable bill pales in comparison to spending ten years fighting off mental breakdown and dysentery in an Ecuadorian prison. “See,” I can say to myself, “I have never been in prison for drug trafficking….so you know, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.” It also keeps me on the straight and narrow, just in case I ever get any crazy ideas about smuggling hashish in from Japan I will be given a moment of pause to re-evaluate. By listening to the horror stories of those who have tried it, I keep myself in check. If I was even thinking about trying to cross over the border with a suitcase full of cocaine I’m sure not going to do it now. “Look what can happen,” I say to myself. No way!
I sometimes watch the series “Hoarders” for the same reason. It’s kind of gross to watch the camera pan from room to room depicting refrigerators filled with food that went bad back during the Clinton administration or bathrooms where the plumbing quit working long ago and human waste is now stacked to the ceiling in 5 gallon buckets. I know I don’t need to keep all those packets of hot sauce from Taco Bell, but at least I can say that I’m pretty confident no one will ever find a mummified cat buried under mounds of discarded rubble in my living room. If I’m feeling bad about my housekeeping skills, I could get busy cleaning OR I could watch an episode of ‘Hoarders’ where, within the first ten minutes, I start to feel a lot like Martha Stewart. No longer am I embarrassed by the dust bunnies under my beds which have grown so large we’ve taken to naming them. “At least I’m not Delores,” I think, “She collects used popsicle sticks by the thousands and saves used toilet paper because SHE MIGHT NEED IT LATER.”
For those of you who don’t already know this, “Hoarders” is a documentary-style program on A&E which depicts the real-life struggles and treatment of compulsive hoarders, people who, to put it in clinical terms, have so much clutter that they can no longer use their living space for the purpose of living. These people are on the verge of losing their homes and sometimes even their families. With professional help, provided by the show, and a timeline (just two days), the hoarders struggle to get their houses in order before they lose everything. BECAUSE NOTHING CURES MENTAL ILLNESS LIKE A DEADLINE AND A TV AUDIENCE.
It’s like a wreck on the freeway….I know I shouldn’t gawk, but I can’t look away.