Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TV Confessions: Hoarding, Coupons and Collecting Weird Stuff

I have a confession to make. I’ve become slightly fascinating with slightly disgusting reality shows.

I blame the networks. During the summer, just like in school, summers are considered vacation time. This means my usual TV viewing of Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries (no mocking), Top Chef, and Gossip Girl (again, don’t mock) are all on hiatus along with other shows I watch every now and again. In an effort to fill the gap, there are other summer shows but nothing I remembered to watch in time to become invested.

So, I’ve been filling my summer in other ways. I did a lot of reading. I just now wrapped up all five of the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin as well as various other books I’ve borrowed and been meaning to read and return for months.

I’ve also cooked a lot. Thanks to my slight addiction to farmer’s market’s, vegetables have been the focus of my summer dishes. I’ve perfected my caprese tart, become slightly obsessed with beet salad and found a ton of ways to prepare veggies using a grill.

I also published Emmy Goes to Hell. I’ve written some short stories as well as conceptualize my new novel.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the dogs.

In short, my summer has been quite productive and fun in the absence of TV. It’s just that, well, as a fan of a good serialized show…I’ve missed TV quite a lot. I’ve substituted by rewatching all seasons of Top Chef. I’ve also been rewatching one of my all-time favourite shows, Gilmore Girls. Yet…I’ve seen them before. They’re not new to me the way a new episode of, say, Grey’s Anatomy is new. I did have Game of Thrones for a while and what a great while that was but at only 10 episodes in the season, it didn’t last long. Now it’s True Blood and that has been greatly disappointing this season. I still watch it out of habit but, well, it’s just not very good and thus, not very fulfilling.

So, as summer has started to wane, I’ve been turning on the TV and seeing just what’s on. Thanks to my parents, I already knew about Billy the Exterminator. This is a show that follows, you guessed it, an exterminator in Louisiana. Trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds because Billy looks like someone who fell of a 1980’s hair band with a penchant for the Harley Davison look. It’s actually quite funny especially when Billy has to don his mask (looks a little like Skeletor from He-Man) and his feather boa (helps prevent bee stings. Trust me, there’s nothing quite as bizarre and hilarious as watching this tough exterminator in a long black trench coat wearing feather boa and Skeletor mask fighting a swarm of bees. Billy has a brother too but he’s not very bright although he, too, looks like a 1980’s hair band reject.

I try not to watch Billy at home. I did slip once and caught myself watching it but it was about Canadian geese and I find those quite interesting anyway. Since my parents record it on their DVR, I normally wait until I got there for a weekend and see if they have any new episodes to watch. It makes me feel slightly less guilty of watching bad TV if it’s not on my DVR.

However, it doesn’t stop with Billy. A couple of weekends ago, I was caught between tasks and errands and I flicked the TV on and caught myself watching Hoarders: Buried Alive. I confess. I’m a little hooked. I wrote a blog once about how much the show Clean House annoyed me because slobs are rewarded for their…slobbishness by getting someone to help them clean their house. Hoarders is different. I find myself watching it for the psychological aspect of it. These people have actually to some psychological problem where they literally cannot throw things away. While the show tends to be a little vile at times, particularly when the house is so cluttered that rats are living beneath the mounds of stuff, it’s still oddly fascinating to me. I also caught just regular Hoarders this weekend. I don’t like it as much as the Buried Alive version because I think it tends to be a little too dramatic with the Black Information Cards of Doom that they use to inform viewers of additional information. However, does tend to be a little more disgusting. For example, there was a woman this week who was clearly severely mentally ill who fancied herself a cook. She had no working fridge, dead rats buried underneath trash and she apparently bakes cookies with mealworms and doesn’t tell people. Also, she left a dead squirrel in the butter dish once.

I can’t help it. Disgusting as it is, it’s also fascinating. We’ve established that I have a dark streak- it’s most attracted to the darker side of human nature. I’ve always been fascinated with personality disorders. Hence my fascination with Hoarders.
From there, I saw another show being advertised: My Collection Obsession. It featured a lady who is obsessed with baby dolls and treats them like real kids. Worse still, her husband and daughter let her do this and think it’s interesting. Well, the husband likes it because it means she leaves him alone but…still. There was also a boy who loves vacuum cleaners and collects them. He loves them and has a side business fixing them. I think he was 15. Apparently, he loved vacuums since he was a toddler. While I think it’s a bit odd, I actually think it’s pretty interesting to have a ‘calling’ in life that’s actually quite useful even if it does mean a large collection of vacuum cleaners to go along with it.

Then another day, I came across Extreme Couponing. I didn’t like this one so much. I find that, psychologically, extreme couponers are just another variety of a hoarder. Sure, there are the decent ones who clip the coupons to create care packages for the troops or to give to a homeless shelter. But every couponer also has “a stockpile” which is a very well organized room/closet/basement filled with shelves that are so full, it looks like a grocery store. One man was proud that he had 1000 tubes of toothpaste that he had for free. Then there was a lady who wanted to help her daughter-in-law get a stockpile of her own. So she went to the store, managed to get over 30 bottles of laundry detergent FOR FREE with her coupons and then gave her daughter-in-law five of them. Yes, five. How generous.

They might be well organized but these extreme coupon people are still hoarders. They spend 35-40 hours a week clipping a coupon. They have GIANT binders full of well organized coupons. Their stockpiles boast more of each item than a store generally keeps on the shelves. Sure, they’re saving money but they’re doing it for the sake of getting stuff for free not because they really need the stuff. It’s a different form of hoarding. It’s usually born out of needing to save money and I respect that but if you can go to the store, get a weeks’ groceries for free, do you really also need to get ten more of each item just because you can? Do you really need 71 bottlesw of mustard because you have 71 coupons? Do you need a cart full of diapers because they end up being free EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T HAVE A BABY????

It just seems like Extreme Greed to me. Plus, where the heck do they get those stacks and stacks of coupons to begin with? Also, if I got stuck behind an extreme couponer in the grocery store, I think I’d be annoyed. It takes them FOREVER to check out because they watch the cashiers like hawks. Also, if I went to a store to use my SINGLE coupon for a bottle of detergent only to find out that some greedy cow had just bought 30 of them and didn’t leave any for me, I’d be annoyed. LEAVE SOME FOR THE NORMAL PEOPLE!

That’s it as far as my guilty TV goes. I think once the regular TV season starts up, I’ll cut back on my crap-TV viewing. However, I will say as a writer, I do find it insightful and interesting to study the personality types of these people.

Of course, the side effect is that I’m very, very conscious of how much stuff I have in my house. Also, I’m even more conscious of making sure my house is clean. Also, if I see some clutter, I immediately declutter the area because I have a secret fear that I might be becoming a hoarder without realizing it.

Also, after seeing the disgusting Fridge Lady, I did immediately go to my own fridge to make sure everything in it was fresh and not blackened, dirty and 20 years old. Oh, and yes, she actually ate the things from her fridge that were literally 20 years old. This is especially vile because, as I mentioned, her fridge wasn’t working and hadn’t been for many years.

Sorry. I’ve probably disgusted you now, haven’t I? I apologize. Blame the Hoarders.
Although, really, since I’m the one watching the show, I’m really too blame. Oh dear. Maybe that means I have some psychological problem where I’m some form of voyeur for watching these people. Will that be the next show: Voyeurs: Buried Alive by Disgusting TV. Perhaps I ought to go back to reading, writing and cooking and just wait for the real TV season to begin.

Although perhaps I ought to wipe that show I saw advertised about Waiting for the Apocolypse off my DVR first.

I have to face it. I’m a hoarder of a different nature: I hoard things in my brain about freaky people to write about as characters in my novels.

Can we call it research instead? I like that better.

Happy Thursday!

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