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Talking urinal-deodorizer cakes get attention


My friend Lowell has an unusual calendar. Everything he does is a tad unusual because he sells television advertising, a field that has few truth standards.

A sample from his calendar he sent me recently:

“1897, Thomas Edison invents the light bulb;

“1954, Ron Popeil’s father, Samuel J. Popeil, invents the Veg-O-Matic food processor;

“1963, Ron Popeil invents the TV infomercial;

“1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs invent Apple Computer;

“2003, Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook; and

“2012, Michael L. Prince invents the talking urinal-deodorizer cake.

“Makes you proud to be an American,” Lowell noted at the end of his list. “Who said we are not at the top of our game?”

I was familiar with all the names except the last one. Somehow I had also overlooked the “talking urinal-deodorizer cake.”

Michael L. Prince is the director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, Lowell explained. It seems Michigan hoped to keep drunks off the streets and highways with the help from a vocal message in men’s bathrooms that utilizes an attention-getting woman’s voice.

“Had a few drinks? Maybe a few too many?” the voice asks men who step up to the urinals. “Do everyone else a favor,” reminding the men to call a cab or a sober friend, if needed, to get home safely.

It seems men account for more than 75 percent of individuals convicted of drunk driving. Lowell understands targeted advertising.

The talking urinal-deodorizer cakes were distributed to Michigan Licensed Beverage Association members, Prince said, to be given to the operators of bars and taverns.

Prince’s office hoped the talking cakes, “by using surprise and a little bit of humor in a unique location will make a lasting impression on every male that hears the message.”

The motion-activated messages were part of a statewide Fourth of July week education and enforcement effort funded by the federal government.

Lowell likely stretched the truth when he said Prince invented the talking urinal-deodorizer cake. He sells TV advertising and enjoys a good story.

It was difficult to follow Lowell’s message last week because I was still in mourning over the death of actor Andy Griffith, the fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry fame. Taylor the sheriff connected with generations of people and helped garner respect for small towns and simple lives.

I grew up in a small town like Mayberry. We had our Barney Fife, a city marshal named Looney. That was his real name, not a nickname.

We had a town drunk, but his name was not Otis Campbell.

Like Otis, our town drunk didn’t drive. When the only traffic signal is a four-way flashing caution light, you don’t have many traffic accidents.

But the lessons you learned in a small town came through interactions that we took to heart. If you know small towns or live in one, you got it then and get it now.

We lived out our lives, regardless of color or background. Half of the people in my hometown were Native Americans. We shared loyalty, laughs and love and didn’t worry about skin color.

I even remember giving our Otis a ride several times after I started driving. Marshal Looney, like Barney Fife, probably would have given me a lecture if I had been spotted.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.