How the Grinch stole METRO: When advertising goes green (and too far)
I was startled this morning by the sharp cackle of a voice on the speaker on my light rail car. Instead of offering a warm respite from the chill of the Museum District station, I was accosted by an evil-oozing chatter on the intercom.
"This conductor must be pissed," I surmised, wondering what antics preceded my boarding (those TMC student nurses are always up to no good). I speak from experience: Last week, we all dealt with a disgruntled conductor after a woman boarded and performed a "spoken word" rant, which occasionally was overridden by METRO's recorded announcements:
My sister Trina goes around with all them mother fuckers and she don't do shit . . . contact METRO police at 713-224 . . . I don't need nothing. I don't need no crazy ass ^!663# talking shit to me . . . train arriving one minute . . . don't mess with me. You say shit to me and I'll say shit about your wife. I heard bout what your wife did, yeah that's why your son came out lookin' like a ^!663#. . . Preston station, doors open left . . . We fucking had a baby in 1983, a tall good-looking college boy and this man up here with the rubber dick can't do shit for me. Nothing at all. Nothing. Nothing at all."
(Recorded and transcribed from my phone, audio available upon request.)
The train came to a screeching halt. We all turned to see the handle of the cockpit door turn and a furrowed brow METRO employee slowly raise his hand into a fist, extend an index finger, and tick it side to side while nodding his head back and forth.
"Ma'am. You gonna do that?" he asked. "Yeah I'll be quiet," she replied, stepping off the train.
And so it came as little surprise that some other tomfoolery had taken place this morning. Settling into my seat, I tuned into my NPR app and took in the urban wasteland that is the space leading up to the Wheeler station, until I recognized that this cackle was all too stylized to be the voice of a cranky conductor.
No, it was the prerecorded chattering of a haunting holiday persona — Dr. Seuss' The Grinch. The entire train was being subjected to an audio advertisement for the TUTS production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.
If there's anything a cynical urbanite does not have an appetite for, it's forced consumption of Broadway musicals. My sockets are still aching from the automatic eye roll I emitted. I confirmed the Grinch's presence when I saw @METROHouston tweet, "You Whos here in Houston should all be aware. The Grinch will be riding METRORail today, November 30th. Are you prepared?" (Yes, METRO does have a Twitter, and no, I am not above drunk DM'ing them.)
But back to the question. The answer is no, I'm not prepared. We already suffer from Houston Zoo advertisements on the side of METRO rail cars reminding passengers to "not forget" to take the train to the zoo. Do they not know the train is already much more entertaining than a mess of caged animals?
I pay $1.25 for unflattering fluorescent light and enticing stories for the water cooler, not for shameless plugs of children's theater productions. I can't help but wonder what Cindy Lou Who would have to say about all of this.