Later in my high school years, both Barry and Brad, my closest friends, got their driver’s licenses. I would often head to Ottawa with them, around an hour away from home. One time, while Barry and I were at the St. Laurent Shopping Centre, we were approached by a woman and her cameraman.
CHRO, one of the television channels in Ottawa, had been producing a commercial for the New RO, a rebranding of their channel. The idea of the commercials was that they’d ask regular people on the street what they thought RO stood for. I think everyone knew it meant Regional Ottawa, but that answer wasn’t interesting or fun. My friends and I often laughed at the silly things people said.
As the camera approached us, I remember Barry getting tense. The woman came up and put the microphone in front of us. The new CHRO logo was on everything. She then proceeded to ask Barry what the RO stood for. I think he said Regional Ottawa, or maybe he just gave her his death stare of “leave me out of this…”, either way, she quickly turned to me and asked the same question.
I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know why I played along, but I said “red octopus”. As soon as I said it, I felt a flash of embarrassment. A quick word of appreciation from the woman with the microphone, and Barry and I walked away. I think there was an endless stream of giggles from Barry as we finished out our day wandering the mall and went home.
When more than a week had passed, and I wasn’t featured in their commercial, I figured I was in the clear, but less than two weeks later, I started getting chided in the hallway at school.
“Hey, Pony… See any octopuses lately?” A quick jibe came from one of the people that I wasn’t friends with at my school.
I knew that my clip had been added to the commercial, and unfortunately, it felt like they played the clip continuously for the next month as people continued to comment on it, and even in my own television viewing, I saw myself more than once. It was a facepalm moment during my teen years and drew mostly negative attention to an awkward geek.
Looking back, though, I’m glad it happened. It is funny, interesting and different. Out of the more than a million people in Ottawa, I was randomly selected as being worthy to have my strange choice featured on TV.