“‘Manny’s Land of Carpets’–I love that show. It was really a show about television; a show about the kind of delusional system that’s projected by people’s belief in, you know, the world that seems to be inside that box in the corner of the room, and that’s the way I saw it in the beginning, anyway. And then it just got crazier and crazier as time went on, and it’s sort of one of those one-sentence ideas that you can crack it open and start to uncrack it a little bit, and it starts to really suggest there’s an entire universe in here–Manny’s Land of Carpets.”
–David Young, writer of “Manny’s Land of Carpets“
So, here is David Young, a writer working for a TV show, writing an episode of said show about how television is a “delusional system.” You’ve got to admire his audacity and the unapologetic relish with which he bites the hand that feeds him.
(This is the topic about which I was going to write last week but had to postpone when I was beset by a migraine. But maybe it’s just as well, because what I’m going to write now is different than what I would have written last week.)
I like a Fraggle Rock episode that’s cohesive, in which all the disparate parts fit together to make one coherent story. In other words, I like it when the Traveling Matt postcard directly relates to what’s going on in Fraggle Rock, and when what Doc and Sprocket do has an effect on the Fraggles. So I really like this episode.
Doc invents a new kind of radio that’s supposed to pick up signals from the other side of the world, but is disappointed when all it picks up are commercials from the local radio station. (Maybe he should try–I don’t know–tuning it?) Sprocket is disturbed by the static and stuffs the radio into the Fraggle hole, where Gobo finds it on his way to look for postcards. Based on a recent postcard from Traveling Matt in which he describes an encounter with a mall Santa, the Fraggles decide that the radio is a gift from the “Wish-Granting Creature” and take it back to the Rock–where, despite the fact that it is quite a ways underground, it still gets excellent reception (way to go, Doc!).
Gobo hears a commercial for Manny’s Land of Carpets and thinks it’s the voice of the “Wish-Granting Creature.” When the announcer promises that Manny’s has “everything you want and everything you need,” Gobo takes it literally, and when the announcer promises that “your happiness is guaranteed at Manny’s,” Gobo doesn’t interpret it as satisfaction with one’s carpet purchase but as a promise of total existential bliss.
Gobo plans an expedition to the Land of Carpets, and the other Fraggles want to come with him. But first, being Fraggles, they have to sing an awesome song:
(By the way, check out the line at 59 seconds in: “They got Doozer sticks and brandy!” I’m a bit shocked that they got away with a reference to alcohol in a kids show, even back then.)
But trouble starts when the Fraggles hear more commercials and more seemingly impossible promises like “all-you-can-eat” which sows discord among the Fraggles when they can’t decide which of these “magical” places to visit. Boober initially seems to be the voice of reason (“What’s the matter with you? That box up there is taking over your minds!”) but even he is not immune to the siren call of Sally Spotless from Sally Spotless Cleaners (“a kindred spirit!”)
After spending a contemplative moment with his echo, Gobo decides it’s best for them to stay in Fraggle Rock:
“I don’t think we should go to any of those places! There isn’t just one Wish-Granting Creature. There’s a whole bunch of voices in that little box, and they all promise something different […] Fraggle Rock has everything that those places have, and it’s got more! It’s got us living together in a place we love. And never mind the voices in the box; listen to the little voice inside yourself!”
Wise words indeed…but of course the other Fraggles, being Fraggles, aren’t convinced until he sings a song about it:
So instead of venturing into Outer Space, instead the Fraggles return the radio to whence it came, and everything is happy again.
Last week I was going to tie this into the Schism, but today I want to relate it to something more personal.
Seven years ago I got my first medical transcription job. It’s interesting, intellectually stimulating work, but also a tremendous responsibility because whether medical reports are processed correctly could potentially be a life-or-death matter. To avoid being paralyzed with fear over the idea that someone could potentially be hurt as a result of a mistake that I had made, I made myself a promise: I would acknowledge to myself that, being human, it was unavoidable that I would make mistakes, but I promised myself always to try to avoid the big ones.
Well, four months ago my orthopedics job disappeared, and a month and a half ago I got a new transcription job, working in all different specialties.
And I found out on Monday that, a week ago, I had made one of the big mistakes.
I was eaten up with guilt. I was paralyzed with fear of it happening again. I lost all my confidence. I had to go back to work on Tuesday, but I went very slowly, terrified of making another mistake that could cause someone to suffer. I sent every report that I finished to the Quality Assurance department to look over, as a precautionary measure.
But there isn’t just one QA reader. There are dozens of them, and they aren’t always consistent with one another: a lot of different “voices” sometimes sending conflicting messages.
But I looked at the QA feedback I was getting, and I realized I was getting a lot less of it than I was when I first started, and most of the feedback I was getting affirmed what I would have done anyway if I’d had the confidence in myself.
So I learned which voices to listen to and which ones to disregard. And I learned not to discount the voice of my own education, experience, and instincts.
I still feel bad about the mistake that I made, but I can’t do anything about it now. All I can do is move forward and do better from here on in.
I’m not so paralyzed with fear anymore.