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The Egg and I

There's a fast-food chain here on the Left Coast called Carl's Jr. that for the better part of a decade now has aired the hands-down stupidest TV commercials of any hamburger joint. (Quite an impressive feat at a time when McDonald's is telling you to make nice with your neighbors by buying them a Filet o' Fish and showing some delusional lunatic telling imaginary people to stay away from his Chicken McNuggets). I think the Carl's Jr. equivalent east of here is Hardee's. Maybe they run the same ads as Carl's Jr in your area., maybe they don't. If they don't, fall down on your knees tonight and murmur sweet hallelujahs.

I'm convinced that Carl's Jr. targets its ad campaigns as rebuttals to complaints people have about the chain. For instance, about 10 years ago, Carl's Jr. had the reputation of taking an entire geological period to provide you with the burger you ordered. So the company trotted out a series of ads explaining that the disaffected youths working back in the kitchen don't start the more-complicated-than-it-looks task of burger assembly until you placed your order -- those other fast-food joints, they made your sandwich weeks ago. Then, there was the complaint that Carl's Jr. burgers were a tad messy. That brought on another ad campaign -- "If it doesn't get all over the place," Carl's Jr. declared, "it doesn't belong in your face." Because hamburgers are supposed to drip goo and fall apart once you pick them up, you see.

The current TV ads are attempting to paint Carl's Jr. as the food emporium of choice for demographically attractive males between the ages of 18 and 44. Under the slogan "If it wasn't for us, guys would starve," the commercials depict ordinary Joes unable to cope with a world in which they must prepare their own meals. One ad shows a young man trying to whip up a batch of guacamole by throwing an entire avocado -- pit and all -- into a blender before he gives up and ostensibly heads off to Carl's Jr. for a guacamole burger. In another, a second man is standing in the butcher section of his local grocery store, staring uneasily at the various cuts of beef available to him. Yes -- our hero, the fellow we're supposed to identify with, is flummoxed by meat. Get thee down to the Carl's Jr., my man, where teen-agers earning minimum wage will take all the guess-work out of those tricky beef-buying decisions.

The ad that finally made me wonder just what kind of open-mouthed breather Carl's Jr. hopes to attract promotes one of the restaurant chain's artery-clogging breakfast sandwiches. In the commercial, a man who is either shaking off an all-night bender or a recent brain injury is attempting to make himself eggs for breakfast. But he seems to be having trouble cracking an open an egg.

Let me repeat that just in case you glossed over this critical plot point: this lummox doesn't know how to break an egg.

He tries pulling it apart with his hands -- no go. He smashes it palm down on the counter -- that's a non-starter, too. He furrows his brow and stares at the egg, unable to figure out how to free the yolky goodness awaiting inside. The ad ends with him giving up, grabbing his coat and beating feet to Carl's Jr., leaving the egg cracking in the hands of the professionals where it belongs.

Now, I don't know where your level of culinary skill lies, but I think we can all agree: on an ascending scale of difficulty from one to 10, cracking an egg clocks in at negative-72. You take the egg, tap it upon a flat, even surface, and pull apart the shell, releasing the yolk and egg white into a waiting skillet or bowl. This isn't exactly butterflying a trout or whipping up a souffle or figuring out what wine to have with the chicken.

I don't know what's the most troubling thing about this ad. The fact that Carl's Jr. thinks I'm incapable of performing a task you could train a chimp to do in a single afternoon? The belief that pointing out what a nitwit I and my fellow males are should make me want to beat a path to the nearest Carl's Jr.? Or the chilling realization that Carl's Jr. believes it's perfectly all right to encourage people with neither the mental acuity or motor skills to crack eggs to get behind the wheel of a car and drive themselves to a fast-food chain, putting lives and property at risk?

That Filet O' Fish is sounding better all the time, I tell you what.


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