"Coffee, please," I say and hold back on snapping my fingers and yelling, "Quick! Quick! Move! Move!" She understands the unspoken commands and slides a clear, textured glass of ice water in front of me. As soon as she's flipped over the small, robin's-egg-colored mug, hot black mud is flowing into it. On the TV above the counter a man in a crisp black blazer with black shirt and red tie stares into the camera from behind a giant oak desk. The sound is so low I can't make anything out, but I think he says "Lance Armstrong."
Behind me a child parades his ten-word vocabulary around for everyone in the diner to hear. "Mom! Mom! Mom! Look!" Raising one eyebrow and peering over my left shoulder, I see the little bastard turned around in his seat, standing up and making a charge at the back of the booth like it's Mt. Everest and the bald guy sitting behind him is base camp.
Straightening up, I see my suspicions confirmed when a yellow jersey and aerodyne helmet race across the screen -- blurred foliage behind the scene and a title bar in front that reads, "Lance Takes First."
"What can I get ya, honey?" the blond smile asks the notepad in the clutches of her long fingernails.
"I'll take a cheese omelet, wheat toast," I answer.
"You sure can," she says to the notepad and vanishes.
I didn't ask. I didn't say, "Can I get a..." because I hate that. She can't answer, "Sure you can," when I didn't ask for it.
With that one most passive of aggressive acts the waitress has wrested control from me. What was a you-bring-me-things-for-pay situation she reversed and made it an ask-for-things-that-I-allow-you-to-have situation.
"Mom! Mom! Mom!" from the booth. Grubby little hands have found a spoon and an errant saucer and fashioned them into a percussion instrument. Clang! Clang! Clang! "Mom! Mom! Mom!" I can't hear the damn TV.
"More coffee, honey?"
"Yes," I say loudly, pointing over my shoulder. "And tell that booth to hold it down."
The look of fear crosses the waitress's eyes. That's right, I want you to confront that family and tell them that they're disturbing others. Control comes back to me with the unspoken threat of, "If you don't..." If you don't I'll tell the manager. If you don't I won't come back and spend money here. If you don't I'll shove that cello-wrapped toothpick into my ears and pop the drums so I don't have to listen to this racket and you'll have to clean up all the blood and ear wax and pus that leaks out and down my shoulders and onto the GODDAMNED counter!
"And, turn up the volume on that television."
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK...
THE COMMERCIAL ISSUE!
Seen: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Daytime Talk Shows, Lifetime
Commercial: All right. Let's get this steaming sack of monkey crap right out of the way. This is the one where three girls walk along on a beach. One says, "I'd kill for a brownie," and her friend says, "Oh, yeah, she's menstrual." Like it's the latest, hip, happening thing for a girl's uterus to slough off its interior wall. It's branched out to other commercials too. I think Midol is trying to make it their catch phrase, reminiscent of the irksome "not so fresh feeling." My biggest fear involving this is that it will become the de rigueur punchline in every stand-up comedian's routine for the next ten years.
Company: Money Tree
Seen: Jerry Springer, Cops, Fox Sports
Commercial: If I'm really pissed off and have no place to channel my anger I think about what I would do to those Money Tree caterpillars if we were ever in the same room. My scowl soon turns to a smile as I think of green and yellow face paint smeared across my knuckles, teeth skittering over a concrete floor, and the shouts of, "Please! Oh, please! No more! I can't take...oh, my antennae! No!"
Company: Six Flags
Seen: Everywhere Constantly
Commercial: If anyone knows whose idea it was to put a young man in an old-man suit and have him jump around to that grating Venga Boys song, please let me know. I will rain down on the heads of everyone involved like fire from the Bible.
Company: Red Stripe
Seen: King of the Hill, Poker, Daily Show
Commercial: Finally, a good commercial. If Red Stripe were Tom Cruise and I were Renée Zellweger I would run across the room, throw my arms over its longneck and kiss it on the bottle cap and I'd say, "You had me at 'Hooray Beer.' You had me at 'Hooray Beer.'"
Company: Select Comfort
Seen: Matlock, The Price is Right, QVC
Commercial: Whenever a Sleep Number commercial comes on, my dad throws whatever reading material is in his hands and yells, "What a crock! You mean to tell me that people slept on regular mattresses, hay bales before that, and rocks before that, but I've got to have a personalized bed with some kind of digital number? What a load of...well, it's a lie. These people are liars." I'm amazed he thinks some advertising isn't a lie, but for this one he's spot on.
Company: Emerald Nuts
Seen: Sports Events, Game Shows
Commercial: It's rare that you learn something from a commercial. This is the exception. In this ad an ugly little girl with a mongoloid uni-brow asks her daddy to share his peanuts. He says, "Sorry, honey, if you eat any of my peanuts unicorns will disappear forever." GENIUS!
Seen: Morning Television, Simpsons, Family Guy
Commercial: A guy wakes up to find he's being followed by a cheering section, complete with mascot in matching suit. Oh, ho ho, MAN, do I need a mascot. I couldn't care less about what this commercial is really selling, but I'm totally sold on the mascot idea.
Company: Las Vegas Board of Tourism
Seen: Billboards at bus stops around town
Commercial: These billboards are tie-ins with the recent "alibi" line of TV commercials Vegas is airing. The billboards have a phrase with a missing verb like, "I couldn't stop _______ing all weekend." Or "We just stayed up and _______ed the whole time." With these I can't do anything except put the "f" word in. That's where my sixth-grade sense of humor automatically goes when faced with this sort of challenge.
Seen: Nothing but Knockouts, Pride Fighting Championship, The Ultimate Fighter
Commercial: A woman to sell nutritional supplements does ab and glute exercises next to a swimming pool. My thoughts: "Good lord. She's tanned skin pulled taut over muscle. She's hairless and oily slick like a Caucasian lizard. Is that woman even the same species as me? What I'm thinking has to be illegal in the Bible Belt states."
Seen: Saturday Night Live, King of the Hill
Commercial: A luminescent butterfly floats from house to house and puts people to sleep. I don't like that there's an implied psychedelic affect. Let's just have out with it. Pills make you feel funny. They give you courage or somnolence or energy or whatever. I want to see that commercial. "Our pills put you to sleep. Give them a shot."