06 June 2009

Hoping for Change: Not Your Grandfather's Potato Chips

More political insight from the extraordinary adventures of Ordinary Boy, book three: The Great Powers Outage (2008):

"Regular, boring chips contain only potatoes, oil, and salt," the Crimson Creampuff informed the audience. "But the Amazing Indestructo's Amazing Pseudo-Chips contain dozens of ingredients, most of which are unpronounceable!"

"They have an earthy flavor . . . like something that's just been dug from the ground," announced Moleman, as everyone on the stage, including AI [the Amazing Indestructo], turned and glared at him. "I meant that as a compliment," he added meekly.

But the crowd was having none of it. We had spent a lifetime eating Dr. Telomere's potato chips, and anything else seemed like heresy. I couldn't help but smile at the thought that I was witnessing a monumental financial defeat for the Amazing Indestructo. He had finally pushed his luck one chip too far.

He realized it, too. In a panic, he turned to another figure on the stage who I hadn't noticed until now. It was an older man dressed all in red, and AI ushered him up to the microphone.

"And here to speak about yet another of the tremendous benefits of AI's Pseudo-Chips is our official spokesman, Comrade Crunch."

There was something about the intensity of this silver-haired old man that made the crowd go silent. He strode purposefully to the microphone, and his gaze washed over us. For a moment it felt like his eyes had focused on me, and me alone. Instinctively I knew that every person standing here had experienced the same sensation. Then he began to speak.

"Comrades," he began in an aged yet powerful voice. "A new day is upon us. For decades we have been told what we like and what we don't like when it comes to salty, fried snacks. A force beyond our control has guided us down one particular path, telling us that there is only one choice when it comes to something as important as potato chips."

The crowd was hanging on every word. In fact, so was I. His statements sure felt compelling, but what was he really saying? It was difficult, but I forced myself to focus on Comrade Crunch's message rather than on how it was making me feel.

"But now, at long, long last, we have a choice. Open your eyes! That single path has finally reached a fork in the road. Will you continue down the path to the right? A path that has been laid out for you as if you had no mind of your own? Or will you take the path to the left? This is a new path, an exciting path! A path you choose for yourself. Are you ready to try a new kind of potato chip?"

"YES!" the audience erupted in unison.

"Are you ready to take a new path?" Comrade Crunch shouted even louder.

"YES!" the crowd exploded in response, including my dad and Stench. What was happening here? That speech had made no sense!

"Then express your collective will," the old man in red built to a crescendo. "And take that path to the left. Amazing Indestructo Pseudo-Chips were made just . . . for . . . YOU!"

As if they had one mind, the crowd expressed their preference by turning en masse to the left and toward the grocery store. The Mighty Mart was about to sell a whole lot of potato chips, but they weren't going to be Dr. Telomere's.

I came downstairs the next morning to find my mom and dad quarreling. It didn't take a genius to know what the argument was over. It had begun the moment Dad and I returned home from the Mighty Mart the day before.

"What got into your head?" Mom asked yet again as she gestured at the sixty or so canisters of Amazing Indestructo Pseudo-Chips that were stacked on every counter in the kitchen.

Normally, when Mom gets this mad, Dad immediately apologizes — even if he doesn't really think he's done anything wrong. That strategy has kept them together for years. But in the case of the Pseudo-Chips, he just wasn't budging.

"These chips are the future," he insisted. "We've been forced to eat one brand our entire lives, and now we finally have a choice."

"But we've always loved Dr. Telomere's chips," my mom pointed out. "You used to work there! Why do you suddenly think there's something wrong with them?"

"It's not them," my father insisted, "but rather the opportunity to take a new path; to try something different."

He was parroting exactly what Comrade Crunch had said.

"They don't even taste good," my mom said in frustration as she sampled one of the chips.

I grabbed one of our remaining bags of Dr. Telomere's potato chips and headed for the TV room. I turned on the set and plopped onto the couch. . . . I flipped around and finally stopped on a channel running a Sunday morning news show. The banner across the bottom of the screen identified the program as The Great Superopolis Mayoral Debate. The announcer was in the process of explaining the setup.

". . . and with the election now only sixteen days away, we're proud to be hosting the first in a series of debates. On your right is the incumbent candidate, Mayor Whitewash."

The camera turned to a podium where the mayor stood. He was smiling in his usual forced-casual sort of way and waving to the TV audience.

"And since the mayor is once again running unopposed," the announcer continued, "we'll represent his opponent in this debate with the prize-winning pumpkin from the recent Carbunkle County fair. We've even carved a face on it to increase the level of tension between the two debaters."

This was quite possibly the stupidest thing that I'd ever seen on TV, and that was saying a lot. I mean, there was no mystery why Mayor Whitewash was unopposed. . . . [His power was the ability to make people agree with him.]

A general sense of agreement was usually all it took for people to cast their votes for Mayor Whitewash. Of course, to actually force people to go out and vote for him would require a much stronger power — like the one I witnessed from Comrade Crunch yesterday. If the mayor had had that kind of ability, there would have been no need to stage a debate between him and a carved pumpkin (The Great Powers Outage, 24-30).

1 comment:

TruthQuestioner said...

I like this alot! It's really quite delightful when lighthearted fiction picks out these things so beautifully and wittily. I really live for those moments in fiction. I'll read the heavy stuff and the banal, but the cleverly witty is what takes the cake.