Formative Experience from the USSR
When I was 12-13 years old, whenever I got any pocket money, I’d save it to buy chewing gum. Of course, it wasn’t sold in stores. One had to go to the underpass and but it from the “gypsies” who somehow had access to all kinds of tempting stuff: lipstick, Hungarian cigarettes, hair barrettes, sometimes even shoelaces.
I waa so desperate for the gum not because I liked it – I didn’t and still don’t – but because each hugely expensive piece (1 rouble, which would be something like $40 to me today) had a colorful insert with pictures of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. I had no idea what these characters meant and I was too old for cartoon animals anyway. The reason why I went without lunch for weeks to buy the gum was that the inserts were so colorful. I did not possess any other object that had such bright colors.
Before seeing the gum, I had no idea such colors even existed. I was mesmerized. I could stare at those inserts for hours, trying to imagine what else could exist in the world that could be brightly colored.
A couple of years later, we all started wearing these really horrible electric orange and electric green outfits that looked pathetic and that I wouldn’t be caught dead in today. But they were crazy popular back then for the same reason that I loved the gum inserts. They weren’t drab.
So just imagine people who for generations experienced this kind of sensory deprivation and then suddenly saw a show like Santa Barbara. Of course, it was a huge deal. I still remember the names of all the show’s characters. And I’m normally so bad with names that I can’t remember a single one even from the mystery novel I read yesterday.