|Simulated Nielson Monitor|
The chasing dots deal refers to the nature of the system that upon each start up (whenever a television was turned on) and then every 45 minutes or so the display lights would start blinking on and off in a left to right sequence as a signal that the monitor wanted an update on who was viewing at the moment. Like it didn't trust us to keep the system up to date and wanted to verify who was actually in the room and viewing. Probably a good thing, too, because as often as not, we had to press the button on or off to accurately reflect who was or wasn't viewing. We were instructed that if someone left the viewing arena for a short period of time but intended to return after a moment, like a refrigerator raid or a bathroom break, we didn't have to sign them off and on again. But if someone left for good (like my wife when I wanted to watch Two and a Half Men or war stuff) then they wanted to know that by signing off the departed party. I never asked nor tested to see if the monitors would implode or something if the same viewer number was signed on simultaneously on different TVs in different rooms. That might have been an interesting experiment but 1) I never thought of it, and 2) why jeopardize the fifty bucks subsidy by risking banishment for insubordinate monitoring? So anyway, when the lights started flashing, whoever had the remote was expected to press the appropriate buttons to reflect the real-time viewer status, and more often than not, I, as the man of the household, was the designated remote operator. I had the power so to speak. And if I was intently focused on whatever program was running, say like trying to figure out the puzzle on Wheel before my wife did or admiring the posture on Vanna or even dozing off for a moment or two, I very well might not notice the blinking lights (aka dots chasing one another) and would be alerted by whoever else was in the room exclaiming..."CHASING DOTS! CHASING DOTS!" Always uttered twice and usually at high decibel levels just to make sure I knew this was no drill but an actual alert. Actually, my wife was normally the one doing the exclaiming part...my mother in law, who is 88 and not exactly technologically savvy was a lot more reserved (and polite, I might add) about alerting me of dots chasing each other by first getting a puzzled look on her face followed by looking at me to see if I was awake or conscious of the situation, and finally by clearing her throat and perhaps pointing her finger at the dancing light display to get my attention. My wife, for some reason, never felt compelled to become party to the same social niceties. She preferred vocalizing the alert. With gusto. Although, I must admit, after time, say the second year or so, she developed a silent ESP-like means of staring at me until I felt a burning sensation somewhere in my brain that a message of "CHASING DOTS! CHASING DOTS!" was being telecommunicated to me and carried with it the understanding that I'd better grab the Nielson remote and fix the problem before...before...well, PDQ if I wanted to avoid my brain cells being sizzled into tapioca pudding. A silent but quite effective means of ensuring accurate real-time data for Nielson to be sure. I hope they appreciate it.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Actually, "good things" is a relative term and chasing dots for Nielson was starting to become a drag. Not a pain in the butt issue but just a minor inconvenience once in a while. More and more I'd make the necessary adjustments but I tended to linger before doing so, letting the dots chase each other for awhile before updating. Perhaps muttering something like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah...just hold your water (Nielson), I'm fixin' it, I'm fixin' it already!" No disrespect intended for the fine folks at Nielson (I don't want to insult anybody before the final check comes in) but dot chasing had become a tedious and monotonous obligation and I was starting to develop the temptation to rebel in other ways. Like weighting the curve. Besides the four preassigned viewers in the house (3 seniors + 1 grandchild) we had the ability to add about four "visiting" viewers. Good for 24 hours we could "add" viewers by temporary assignment of numbers by indicating sex and age of any visitor. So, how about adding four fictitious visitors, say 85 to 96 years old, and dialing up Dr Phil for viewing? Then again, why load the bases for something I don't watch when I could push the curve towards programs I do watch?
But I didn't do any of that. Fun to consider but we kind of looked at our Nielson experience as a contract of sorts, especially since we were getting paid for it, so our monitoring was 100 % on the up and up. Well, make that 90 % to account for the times I might have dozed off while the TV was still running and the dots were still chasing each other but I didn't know it. I wasn't really watching that infomercial on the newest ab-building machine, honest! It's only been two days now since Nielson pulled the monitoring system out. And I can't say that I miss it. But I'm still programmed to make a change when my wife or mother in law leaves the room. I look for the remote to see if it might have slipped down between the sofa seat cushions again. Until I look up and remember there are no chasing dots to react to anymore. I don't have to worry about dots or mother in law pointing or wife sending non-verbal arrows in my direction anymore (at least not about dots, anyway). It's sort of like I'm having withdrawal symptoms from chasing dots for Nielson, I guess. So, farewell, chasing dots.