PRATIE PLACE

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Calming Noises

The MetLife building faces the north exits of Grand Central Station. It has big passageways cut through the bottom of it so that all of the commuters can trudge right through it and head up Park Avenue without going out of their way.

The walls of these passageways through the MetLife building are some serious advertising space. Makes sense, since thousands of people walk through them every day. They're decked out with gigantic glowing screens and speakers so that the ads can have sound effects.

I walk through one of these tunnels twice a day. I'm usually half asleep on these walks, and for some reason this has enabled the advertising to take a strong effect on me.

A series of smarmy hotel ads featuring a bichon frise take up half the wall space of my preferred passageway. In one ad, the bichon frise sits behind a gigantic brown desk and a laptop, saying, "Let's get down to business." In another one, the bichon frise pokes his head into a jewelery bag, saying "For me?" In a third one, the bichon frise looks sad, and says "it's a sad day when you go away."

I don't care much for this dog but I've developed enough of a relationship with him that I don't like to look at the ad where he looks sad, because it makes me kind of sad. If I look, I have to promise him I'll see him again tomorrow.

Still, I find the other series of ads in the passageway even more compelling. They are ads for, I think, the Bahamas - gigantic panels of luminous backlit photographs of what it would look like if you were scuba diving in Aruba instead of trudging up Park Avenue.

These ads also have a sound track, of what it would sound like if you were scuba diving and you expressed your wonderment via electronic keyboard. The sound track is heavy on the bubble sounds, which are backed bye an endlessly repeating series of four soothing synthesizer chords.

This ad is particularly effective in the middle of winter when it's just awful outside, but the soundtrack has started to stick with me throughout the day even when the weather's good. Lately, on occasions when work gets stressful, my eyes start drifting out of focus, and I start to hear the bubbling of my air tank and the four-chord sequence of the Bahamas ringing in my ears...

--Melina

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