Other than listening to Andy Rooney, is there any single thing more annoying than being shown the same inane TV commercial half a dozen times in the space of two hours? Don't you sometimes wish you could be just as annoying to them, right back?
Here's the good news: You can! All you have to do is quit your job, go to journalism school, get a sequence of mind-numbing, entry-level positions at newspapers with names like the Aberdeen (Kan.) Clarion-Complainer, join the secret League of Bleeding Heart Liberal News Distorters, get hired by a major American newspaper, prove yourself so incompetent that they no longer trust you to cover anything important, and be assigned a humor column.
I am on the phone with Lisa Howard, a spokesperson for McDonald's. It took two days to get this interview. With no disrespect to Lisa, I had been hoping to speak with Lori Miller, who I had been told was "the on-point person for U.S. communication on salads." But instead I got Lisa, an all-purpose communications specialist. It's okay, though. Lisa said she had received "a briefing on salads."
I said I was calling about an ad I had seen 16 squintillion times during a recent Yankees game. It features a woman at work who surreptitiously eats a co-worker's salad because she finds it so incredibly tempting.
Lisa: Yes, the ad emphasized the premium quality of the ingredients and the great quality of our great-tasting salads!
Gene: Swell. My question is, is this a realistic scenario? Do you think this could happen in an ordinary workplace?
Lisa: I would think so. The point is to show how these are great salads, and they are so great it is sometimes hard to resist eating them!
Me: So, let me get this straight. You think a professional woman, specifically asked by another professional woman to guard her salad when she went away for a few minutes, would consume said salad and then flee the scene of the crime, not only betraying the first woman's trust, but establishing herself as the most likely culprit, thereby exhibiting not just amorality, but stupidity? Then, at the end of the ad, as she flees, she sees that a good Samaritan, a male co-worker who is merely trying to properly dispose of the empty container, which the first woman has thoughtlessly left on the table, is being blamed for the theft, but she continues fleeing.
The salad was from McDonald's; it was not, say, flown in from Paris, so the woman could have easily gotten one herself, but was apparently too lazy to do so. So we have, in one ad, a celebration of shockingly unethical behavior, stupidity, larceny, gluttony, sloth, envy, greed, cowardice, bearing false witness against a neighbor and littering. Other than out-and-out murder, is there any commandment or deadly sin that this ad does not advocate, condone or endorse?
Lisa: I think you're blowing this way out of proportion.
Me: Am I?
Lisa: It's supposed to be a fun ad.
Me: Does McDonald's think that it would be "fun" for customers to steal the food from your restaurants?
Lisa: No. I think the whole point of it was to show the irresistibility of the product. There's humor in advertising.
Me: Moving right along. The first woman, the one who bought the salad? Where is she going?
Lisa: Someplace for a few minutes.
Me: Precisely. She leaves her salad for a few minutes, even though the salad is quite portable. This suggests she is going someplace where bringing a salad would be inappropriate, even disgusting.
Me: I think we both know where this is going, don't we?
Me: I think we can add scatology to the sins. What we have here is a subtly scatological ad that appears to be advocating the commission of a crime, both associated with McDonald's products. Thank you, Lisa. I think my work here is done.
Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is email@example.com. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.