Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
Mark Twain had no peer. I have said that before, but it bears repeating. If I repeat that 231 times a day spread over seven different radio stations during drive time for a period of six weeks in a three county area of East Mississippi, the numbers say that I will achieve what is known in advertising lingo as “complete market saturation”. It will cost about $60.00 per 15 second spot, for a total cost of $582,120. Having achieved complete market saturation, I wonder how many folks will buy a Mark Twain book and read it? Or how many will download a free version from Google Books at no cost to themselves and read that? I wonder how many folks can read, and how many are actually doing it? I wonder if Mark Twain would be any larger afterwards than he is now? He is no small thing to begin with, though some in academia have, as of late, removed him from any reading lists, citing trigger warnings for his use of language rooted in racism.
Since Cuba has been in the news lately, first with the normalization of diplomatic relations, then with the death of Fidel Castro, I have been hearing, repeated nearly to the point of market saturation, that Castro’s free public education system in Cuba has yielded a 100% literacy rate.
“Says who?” I ask myself. “The Cuban Ministry of Education?” Who from this country has been to the nether regions of Cuba to see if everyone can read, and how would you do it?
“Senor,” I asked a man sitting in a broken down 1956 Chevy Bel Air, “Can you read?”
“Jess,” said the man, “Yo leo!”
I see a woman washing her clothes in the Manantiales river in the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba, near the city of Pinar del Rio, famous for its fine tobaccos used in the marvelous Cuban cigars that once delighted Mark Twain, the beautiful river that lends itself to the area’s name, and also one of Cuba’s poorest provinces and cities.
“Senora, can you read?”
“Senorita!,” she said pointedly. How was i to know? She looked much more senora-ish than senorita-ish to me. “And, yes, I can read. And speak English, tambien.” She seemed pretty peeved at my faux pas. I hazarded another question, though she seemed ready to wallop me with a wet pair of pantalones. I reckoned that if I asked a thousand people, not one would admit to being illiterate.
“Have you ever heard of Mark Twain?”
“No,” was the reply. “Is he a baseball player?”
“Twain and Jeter,” I replied, “The Florida Marlins’ dynamic duo.”
“Heter is a Jankee!” she shouted with a wag of her finger, drawing back with the pantalones. I beat a hasty retreat.
Perhaps I need to do some radio advertising on ol’ Mark’s behalf down there. I expect he knew more about Pinar del Rio province than Pinar del Rio province knows abut him, other than they both knew that lots of cigars were shipped to Connecticut to some avid smoker who lived there.
If free education produces a 100% literacy rate, then why it is typically implied that America doesn’t have 100% literacy like the Cubans? We have free public education here. We’ve had it for far longer than Cuba had Castro. We Americans should be able to read and comprehend just about anything. Most do, but many don’t. Is it the people, or the education system? And who, firmly entrenched in the education system here, is going to admit that there are students that passed through their classrooms that cannot read?
This must be true, I know several of them, myself. Some of them have worked for me. Recognizing it as I saw them struggling with their new employee papers, I helped them. For some of the jobs I have, reading is not necessary, though the ability to use a sharpshooter and a sledge hammer is. Lots of folks who can’t read are familiar with shovels and hammers, and are quite good with them. Those who can’t read, can’t swing a hammer, and won’t use a shovel are hardly employable. The ones who can work, but cannot read, are severely handicapped when it comes to advancement, though.
Of course, there are folks who have reading disabilities, such as dyslexia. Many of them cannot read but have learned to compensate in one way or another. Usually they require the help of another person. If left to their own devices and faced with a complicated piece of equipment to assemble and handed an owner’s manual, the non-readers and the reading impaired will soon reveal their handicap once things have progressed beyond the pictures shown in the manual.
“Warning: You must first remove the shipping pins that secure the operating mechanism prior to final assembly. Operation of the equipment with the pins installed can result in catastrophic equipment failure, operator injury, or death!” read the manual.
The picture showed the pins, but one could not tell from the photo if the pins were being removed or installed. Danny looked at the picture. He found the pins. He thought to himself that it was good how the pins were preinstalled from the factory, relieving him of the necessity of removing them.
Later on, when the equipment was to be operated, using the energy stored in a large spring to actuate it, the pins all sheared, breaking several expensive parts inside the mechanism which took weeks to receive and days to replace. Danny thought that the equipment manufacturer’s warranty should cover this defect.
“Danny, the only defect here is your assembly procedure from failing to read the assembly manual” I said as I counted up how much money this was costing me.
“But I read it,” he declared.
“Except for the large yellow background blocks with the warnings all in bold type,” I replied. “You didn’t read those.” He was too embarrassed to admit that he couldn’t read. I would not force him to admit it, though I did later have to let him go because I could not send him out alone to do a job. He simply could not read the drawings and specifications.
He got a free education, though. Maybe he should have gotten it in Cuba. He should at least ask for a refund.
Reading advertisements? Lot’s of folks can read them, but they don’t bother to read the fine print, or they cannot comprehend the fine print, so the advertised thing fails to do what they purchased it for and the warranty, which was no warranty, fails to help. Is it reading if you just read the parts you think apply to you? Or is it reading when you read all the parts and find out that far more applies to you than you thought? I reckon one learns through experience about the fine print. The bold face type giveth, the fine print taketh away.
The late Ron Popeil was the master of selling millions of nothings with the power of advertising. I can’t wait for the whip the egg inside its shell gizmo to appear in the “As Seen on TV” section of the local Dollar General. I really want one of those. And a “Set it and Forget It” rotisserie oven with the two compartment food warmer on top? I just gotta have one of those. Everyone does. We can hardly live without them. Order today and receive a second one FREE!.
I wonder how many they will sell in Cuba? Probably not many.
Sometimes the ability to read what is written is not nearly as important as the ability to read between the lines. They never teach that in school. You are more likely to learn that from your parents, your grandparents, or some other mentor. The thing not said speaks louder than what is written.
Res ipsa loquitur! Not always. Sometimes one has to read the manual. If they can’t, then any Cuban can help you.
©2017 Mississippi Chris Sharp
PS: The ruxolitinib is giving me fits. I read the fine print. The fine print says it can cause peripheral edema. It dies not say when, or why, just that it can. Well, it can and it does, and follows no set rules about when it might decide to pursue this as if it were an intermittent hobby. I am in the middle of swollen hands and feet. I may have to go out and get me some new shoes. Mine won’t fit. I see Hemosapien Monday and Gooday the following Monday. I am in good hands.
PPS: RS, sister, I love you!