Truth in advertising

Dec 3, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I was walking around downtown America the other night when I caught the tantalizing aroma of locally sourced, all-natural, food-truck hot dogs. I couldn’t be certain, but I suspected the buns were gluten-free. I wandered over for a closer look.

“Hot dog, buddy?” asked the vendor. “Depends — are they sustainable?” I asked.

“Sure thing, pal. And you can get ’em topped with chili and cheese, or sauerkraut, or classic-like, with mustard and relish. These dogs are the best in town,” he said. And then he began to talk faster. “Possible side-effects include hypertension, kidney disease, stroke, lightheadedness, obesity, self-loathing and irritable bowels. Do not attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery while eating hot dogs. Ask your doctor if hot dogs are right for you.”

“Wow,” I said. “Truth in advertising is really catching on. I think I’ll pass for now, but I’ll ask my doctor and get back with you.”

A few blocks down the street, I saw a crowd streaming toward the big game. A scalper smiled at me and waved a handful of tickets in my face. “Need a ticket?” he asked.

“Depends,” I said. “I do enjoy supporting my local sports team. What’s the ticket for?”

“Are you kidding?” he asked. “Biggest game of the year. Best rivalry in the country. These are great seats, too, 10 rows from the floor.” And then he began to talk faster. “Possible side-effects include hypertension, dry mouth, Tourette’s syndrome, self-loathing and personal violence. Ask your doctor if college basketball is right for you.”

“Wow,” I said. “It sounds pretty good, but do you know the teams’ graduation rates? And do the players get part of the profits? Let me text my doctor ...” But he was already gone.

A few blocks further down the street, I saw a man stooped over in a doorway, smoking what appeared to be crack. When he saw me watching him, he said, “Hey, buddy, you want in on this?”

“Is that crack?” I asked. “Heroin,” he said. Black tar.

I said, “I’ve gotta admit, I’ve always wondered what that’s like. It must be pretty great if so many people are willing to hand over all their worldly possessions and ruin their entire lives for it.”

“Well, for 50 bucks, you can find out right now. This is some good shit, too. Pure. It’s not so strong it’ll kill you, but it’s not that stepped-on shit. No molasses, nothin’ like that,” he said. And then he began to talk faster. “Possible side-effects include hypertension, shortness of breath, incontinence, self-loathing and the inability to open your eyes or hold your head up. Do not attempt to hold down a job or stay in a relationship on heroin. In some cases, heroin can lead to coma or death. Ask your doctor if heroin is right for you.”

“I guess we can leave that particular buzz a mystery,” I said. “These days, a third IPA is about as experimental as I get with my brain chemistry. To be honest, I don’t even drink soft drinks because of the corn syrup, so I guess I should go ahead and take heroin off my bucket list. But thanks for the offer.”

Across the street, I saw a towering church. The lights were on inside, so I went in. A kindly old man was praying near the altar. When he heard me come in, he stood up, smiled at me and said, “Salvation on your mind?” “Not really,” I said. “I’m just a fan of the interior decorator.”

“Well, if you change your mind, this is a good place to explore your heart and soul,” he said. “Christ has redeemed us all, you know. And this is a warm and loving place to examine your faith.” And then he began to talk faster. “Possible side-effects include hypertension, guilt, delusions of grandeur, self-loathing and a fascination with other people’s sex lives. Do not attempt to write social legislation or a constitution while under the influence of church. For wars lasting longer than four hours, seek immediate diplomatic help. Ask your doctor if church is right for you.”

“You make a compelling argument,” I said. “I’ll think about it. Those side-effects you mentioned sound a little bit scary. Meantime, are you hungry? I know where we can get a sustainable chili-cheese dog if you’re interested. My treat. But, um, there might be some side effects.”

And we walked together out into the American night.