One of my favorite TV shows while growing up in the 60's was The Andy Griffith Show. A sitcom set in the slow-paced fictional town of Mayberry, NC; where widowed sheriff Andy Taylor and his young son Opie lived with their spinster aunt, Aunt Bee. They were joined by a whacky cast of characters that included Barney Fife, the infamous bungling deputy; Gomer Pyle, the simple gas station attendant; Floyd, the barber; Otis, the town drunk, and other equally quirky folks.
Mayberry was, and is, the personification of rural America. It has been frequently referenced in pop culture from music to movies as a metaphor for a happier and a simpler life. A slower time when families ate dinner together, friends would just stop by and the day would wind down on the front porch with family and friends, lemon aid and some stories or song.
The episode, “Man In A Hurry” has been one of my favorites for years. It popped up again on my TV a few days ago and tells the story of a busy business man, Malcolm Tucker, from the nearby big city of Raleigh, NC. Mr. Tucker finds himself stuck in Mayberry when his car breaks down on a Sunday. Needless to say getting anyone to respond to his broken vehicle in the south, in the 60's, and on a Sunday afternoon was impossible. Mr. Tucker screamed and yelled and berated the people he met. He just could not understand the complete lack of urgency to “his” emergency by all those Mayberry residents he encountered, who were all “very busy doing nothing”.
At the end of the day, Goober and Gomer come to the rescue and did the neighborly thing by fixing Mr. Tuckers car, so he may continue his journey and get out of Mayberry. But in the meantime, Mr. Tucker has the opportunity to experience one of Aunt Bee’s famous Sunday dinners and some time on the front porch with the Taylor’s…Yes, some fine quality time just talking and doin’ nothin’, and suddenly this talking and relaxing began to make more sense to Tucker. As you would expect, Mr. Tucker began to rethink the invitation to spend the night and get some rest before continuing his trip. Getting ready to drive away, Mr. Tucker pretends that his car was not running correctly, and gives in to his urge to spend one more night in Mayberry.
Almost 50 years ago, a terrific TV episode perfectly and wonderfully depicted how we were quickly letting the pressure and speed of business and the world around us create an increasingly stressful and impatient existence. And, in the end, it was clear that we all really yearn for a simpler time, an unrushed lifestyle where we can embrace the people and life around us.
As for “what I’d like to do with Aunt Bee”? Well, Aunt Bee was always the conscience for the characters of Mayberry, including Andy at times. Bee provided a very fair but stern barometer for the behavior of those around her in a quiet, no nonsense manner. I can’t begin to imagine how Aunt Bee would react to Opie texting away at the dinner table. Or maybe Andy, talking on his cell phone while they’re clearing the table and doing the dishes. And don’t forget Barney sitting on the porch after dinner, surfing away on his laptop following an unfolding crime spree, trying to involve himself in one way or another.
What I’d like to do is place the stern but loving Aunt Bee in charge of our electronic and media habits. Yes, make her the gatekeeper for our insatiable appetite to be plugged into some device or another every waking moment. And especially those of us involved in marketing online…we always seem to take things to the extreme, and can’t be unplugged for an instant in the fear that we might just miss something. Lets give Aunt Bee the power to unplug or turn off any of our electronics, at any time, and announce that it’s time to go sit on the front porch and spend some time together and talk about our day. And maybe, just maybe she’ll bring out some of that lemon aid too.
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