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We'll be back after these important messages

I stayed home sick on Monday, a happening which, like most deviations from regularity, came with a few interesting implications.

First of all, it meant I didn't go to work.

It also meant quality bonding time with Little Brother, who sequentially turned down my offers to play Monopoly, Scrabble, Mancala, Battleship, Life, Chess, Checkers and Connect 4 before grunting his semi-willingness to (literally) throw down a couple rounds of Yahtzee.

And finally, as sick days tend to do, Monday awarded me a major in TV time with an emphasis on commercial consideration.

It's a degree I started pursuing my junior year of high school, when I wrote a disturbingly long research paper about advertising and its effects on children, ranging from 4-year-olds who can't tell the difference between an advertisement for Lucky Charms and an episode of Sesame Street to 8-year-olds beginning to comprehend that commercials are intended to make you whine your way to WalMart for a bicycle/gallon of ice cream/video game/vacuum cleaner.

If I had to write a thesis on the subject, I'd make a case for our eventual regression: I propose that amidst adulthood we revert, losing our acquired ability to distinguish between advertisement and entertainment, game show and gimmick, sitcom and sales pitch, comedy and commercial.

Advertising in America has transformed from a mere means to an end into a significant aspect of culture itself, demonstrating advancement, propagating desire and perpetuating perception.

Some businesses have marketing down to a tee, pulling it off so flawlessly their customers do it for them. Think contests for slogan designs, online voting for new commercial representatives (may the former band rest in peace) and donning clothes we should be paid to wear since we've essentially become walking billboards for brand names (I'm not plastering Hollister across my torso for less than $50).

Nowhere is the commercial's self-sustainability more evident than during the Super Bowl, when non-football fanatics tune in for commercials alone, anticipating mind-gripping entertainment instead of simple attempts to turn a profit.

This, of course, is the best marketing ploy of all time, used (knowingly or not) by the old ladies in China town, the little men in Harlem Market, the carnies at the fair and the druggies in the back alley: make the customer have fun and forget they're shelling out cash.

And it works. We're off-guard, having a good time as we get sucked into the televised worlds portrayed not only on programming but also in the short words from their sponsors in between.

So why aren't the shows, newscasts, cartoons and made-for-TV dramas afraid of being hedged out by their commercial counterparts?

Because advertisements, by nature, don't finish what they start, asking you to do so instead by making a purchase.

When Days of Our Lives leaves you at a cliffhanger as to whether Marlena is carrying Jon's baby or Stefano has risen from the dead (again), you know precisely when to tune in and satiate your curiosity with the next segment of storyline.

Commercials, however, leave questions with no guaranteed answers.

Whose dirty floors are being used in the Mr. Clean commercials, and how did they get so gross?

Does the girl on the Progressive commercials use a "bump-it," as advertised in its own commercial time slot, or does her hair boast naturally unnatural volume?

Can I get an actual lollipop from the factory that makes the bright mini laptops?

And then, of course, there's the ultimate safeguard against being sucked into the world of inviting advertisements and ceaselessly overdrawn bank accounts: the mute button.

Proof: I wrote this column during the commercials.

Thressa Johnson graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends Hamline University in St. Paul.