I’ve mentioned this before, but a new string of Progressive Insurance commercials has gotten under my skin. These are the commercials where Dr. Rick helps young home insurance owners to not turn into their parents. I admit these commercials are funny. They certainly hit very close to home, as I, being a parent, do many of the behaviors they poke fun at. Which is probably why I have the need to address this.

While I like Dr. Rick am not a doctor, I do have a master’s in human behavior, and I realize many of these “parental actions” are quite positive and should be encouraged.

In one segment a guy acting like his dad points to a mall pond and tells a kid, “Do you know what kind of fish those are? Don’t be coy!” It’s a classic dad joke. I used that line on my son when we were looking at a friend’s coy pond. Yes, we have friends with coy ponds. My son groaned, my wife groaned, everybody groaned. But still, dad jokes play a social role in the bonding process. They are a method dads use to relate to their families.

In another segment the same guy who told the “bad dad joke” is buying a shirt. Dr. Rick points out that the shirt the guy is buying is the exact same as the one the guy is wearing. The guy gives an “ah shucks” look and still decides to buy the shirt. Dr. Rick looks less than pleased. Here’s the thing: If buying the same shirt makes the guy happy, then Dr. Rick shouldn’t care. People aren’t the arbitrators of other people’s happiness. I’m not just saying this because I have five light-blue pickleball shirts.

There’s the segment where a young person becoming their dad is shopping for food for a football party. I assume it’s the Bills. The “dad” stops to tell the manager that “Brian in produce is excellent.” Dr. Rick comes and ushers the “dad” away. As a happiness guy who talks to a lot of people, I take umbrage with Dr. Rick there. The “dad” was just giving Brian praise, good for his and possibly the Brain’s happiness.

One of the commercials has Dr. Rick escorting a group of parents through an airport. When he sees that they all have paper tickets, he comments, “Paper tickets. We’re off to a horrible start,” which, I admit, is funny. But, if an older person feels more comfortable with a paper ticket, there’s no reason for Dr. Rick to complain.

I don’t miss paper tickets at airports, but I do miss them at ball games. They made for nice mementos. Of course, now I just take pictures on my phone.

The latest commercial has Dr. Rick taking a bunch of “parents” to a football game to tailgate and watch the game. One of the parents mentions, “It’s smart we parked near the exit.” As a guy who’s been to a lot of Bills games and spent even more time stuck in parking lot traffic waiting to get out, I gotta say I agree with this. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get home faster so you can take off your “grown-up” clothing and walk around in shorts and a blue pickleball shirt.

Now that’s happiness. Yep, I’m speaking from experience there.

John Zakour lives in Geneva. He is a freelance humor writer with a BA in Computer Science from SUNY Potsdam, a master’s in human behavior and a Chief Happiness Practitioner. He has sold thousands of gags to strips and magazines and had over 50 books published. He writes his own syndicated comic, “Working Daze,” which has anywhere from 30K-100K daily readers. His “Positive Vibes” column runs every Thursday. Contact him at johnzakour@gmail.com.

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