I was half-reading a book and half-watching TV the other day, when I thought I heard someone on TV advertising a "colonoscopy sweepstakes." I assumed that either I had heard wrong or it was a spoof on sweepstakes contests, so I put my book down to find out. It was neither. It was real. It was part of something called "CBS cares." The grand prize winner would get to fly to New York where he or she would receive a free colonoscopy. The winner would also be given three nights in a "luxurious" hotel. Oh, and the winner could bring a "companion" on the trip. That's an interesting bonus, although a colonoscopy probably wouldn't make a good first date.
The pitch was done with a sense of humor, but it was obvious that they really wanted to publicize the need for people to be healthy and have appropriate medical tests.
I think publicizing it like this is an interesting public service. But it can be more than that. And I'm not just talking about the kind of dates that I hinted at that begin with, "Hey, baby, want to go to Miami with me while I get this thing removed from my back?" I think things like the free colonoscopy trip could be a great "travel stimulus package." And the government wouldn't even have to be involved.
First of all, some medical procedures could actually be done on the way to a destination. For example, there's no reason why airlines can't take passengers' blood pressure for free. There are many other tests that could be done on a plane. I can easily imagine ads like this: "Fly United and find out what you're allergic to." "Fly American and get a free chest x-ray." "Travel with Jet Blue and turn your head to the left and cough."
I also think it can be used to bring more tourists to a city. Obviously, it would be hard to turn down a free trip to Paris if all you had to do was have a hearing test once you got there. But it could be used for American cities as well, especially those that have been hit hard by the recession. "Free root canal and three days in Detroit" could help businesses in the motor city. I'm not suggesting that you have the procedure if you don't need a root canal, but if you have to have one anyway, why not travel?
Another good campaign would be, "Fly to Washington D.C. for a free delivery of your baby." Immigration foes might not like it, but people from all over the world would want to fly to D.C. to make sure their kid would be a U.S. citizen. Imagine how it would help the businesses in our nation's capital. Car seats would be flying out of stores, pediatricians would have more patients, and the blankie biz would be off the charts.
Cruises are perfect for this kind of thing since they aren't over in a few hours. There's no reason why they can't offer passengers a free physical during the cruise. But the big boon to cruises would be cosmetic surgery. You go away for a little while and come back with a new face. It's also a natural for another kind of cosmetic surgery. I can see the ad now: "Afraid to take a cruise because of the open sea? Float better after breast augmentation."
Like anything, these medical giveaways might get out of hand. We'll know they've gone too far when we see an ad like this: "Free trip to California to anyone without money who wants to give birth to eight babies."
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.