Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, April 22, 2021

Not only is today Earth Day, it’s the 40th anniversary of the observance. Four decades is long enough for the movement to have evolved, from single-focused eco-green to a green philosophy infused with more pragmatic blue-sky thinking — a so-called “turquoise” approach.

I offer no such tempering for my own blog-based Earth Day tradition, which is simply the annual re-telling of my college prank call, turned spurious environmental protest. But it just so happens that my freshman-year stunt happened exactly 20 years ago today — the midway point in Earth Day history. Entirely coincidental, but the juxtaposition has gotta count for something.

And with that, here’s the much-repeated story. The details: It’s 1990, in a dormitory lounge at my alma mater, with my 18-year-old self gawking at an old TV with over-the-air reception only (no cable on campus back then). The perfect ingredients for spontaneous save-the-planet action!

My favorite Earth Day memory is a prank I played 13 16 17 18 several years ago. I was sitting in my dorm lounge with a dormmate. We were flipping through the channels (no cable TV in the dorms back then -– the dark ages!!), and catching a couple of news reports telling us it was Earth Day. Then we land on Home Shopping Network, just as they start rolling out their fur collection for display and sale.

It hit me: Furs? They’re hawking freakin’ furs on Earth Day? Come on!

Now, I wasn’t then, nor am I now, a hard-core environmentalist or animal-rights advocate. I’m sympathetic with those philosophies, to a point, but I eat meat, wear leather, etc. Nevertheless, some part of my sensibilities was offended by seeing such a bizarre juxtaposition. I think I was offended by the stupidity, or more likely ignorance, on display by HSN.

So, I decided to do something. I got my phone, dialed up the HSN order line, and as soon as the customer service drone answered, I yelled, “EARTH DAY! FUR IS MURDER! BOYCOTT! BOYCOTT!!”. I did it a couple more times after that. Then I got my dormmate to call too, on his phone; he did a very low-key version of same spiel (sans yelling –- that was my schtick).

We had our fun, and decided to keep watching the channel to see if our childish actions had any on-air effect. Lo and behold, about 10 minutes after the last of our calls, the show host mentioned, “By the way, folks, today is Earth Day”, and then abruptly switched from the fur display to something else. We laughed our asses off! It looked like we had stuck it to the man!

And, since the above seems to bother modern-day Home Shopping Network employees/fans who stumble this way, here’s some further clarification:

It seems to be eluding some that the episode above happened in 1990. When I was 18 years old, btw — so the “childish” insult doesn’t faze me, as I practically was still a child at that point. Also, whatever call-center procedures that are in place now most likely weren’t in effect back then. So don’t bother citing current SOP because it probably doesn’t apply.

Secondly, I never state that the operators somehow relayed those crank calls to the broadcast booth. However, you can bet those calls were being monitored from a higher source, and from there filtered to what was going on on-screen.

Lastly: Whether or not my imagined cause-and-effect really happened, the sequence is where the humor is. It still makes for a funny story, which is why I look forward to recycling it yet again next year. :)

Since I’m soon going to be attending an informal Eckerd College reunion to celebrate a few of my classmates’ personal 40-year ripening, the timing for this year’s iteration seems perfect. Consider it an early birthday gift, to both my fellow alums and to Mother Earth.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/22/2010 08:08 AM
Category: College Years, Comedy, Political
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