By itself, this incident didn't suggest much to me, except that my friends were hard to shock. But a few weeks later, one of those same friends showed up on my doorstep drinking Pepsi out of a plastic Taco Bell cup, and cringed when I giggled at him for it. "Taco Smell?" I teased. "The Mexican Phone Company? Did you 'make a run for the bathroom?'"
"It doesn't mean anything," he said defensively. "It was the closest place. And they didn't have Coke. Just leave me alone." This is the same friend, you understand, who shrugs off jibes about sexuality, religion, personal habits, and Rogaine-resistant hair loss. Together, these two incidents point up a fascinating and heretofore overlooked keyhole into the human psyche: for Americans, nothing is quite so profanely taboo as second-rate consumer goods.
Check it out: if I say "where were you raised, in a barn?" you feel nothing, a slight annoyance at worst, because for you, a barn is a kind of tourist attraction, functional and important and charmingly old-fashioned. But if instead I say "the stockroom of a Circle-K," you may in fact feel your collar grow warm. Ditto if I say not, "did you get dressed in the dark?" but rather, "Did you fall into the Gap?" Or worse, "Was there a blue light flashing when you bought that?"
So, we've found a nerve. Perhaps the nerve, for some people. Let me caution you: use this information wisely, and in the service of Good. But if in your wanderings you come across someone who truly needs to be dissed, strip off the kid gloves and tell him/her, "You were conceived in a Ford Pinto at a drive-in DEATH WISH double-feature, while your momma worked at Juice Stop, and your daddy was a junior frycook at Der Weinerschnitzel." And if that doesn't have the desired effect, try invoking the name of Barry Manilow.
Just be sure not to finger me when the justifiable homicide indictments come down.
See last quarter's rant.
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