First my eggs came in a carton with an expiration date stamped on one end. Then they stamped the eggs themselves with the expiration date. This was unsettling enough, since I don't really like eating food with words on it. Even my fruit has the decency to use a sticker. Of course if you recycled all the stickers on all the pieces of fruit in all the supermarkets in the world you would probably have enough paper to staple a photocopied concert notice about an indie band to every telephone pole in America. And those stickers are only on the fruit in the first place so the cashiers will know what code to use to ring up your pluots. Maybe they should start stamping fruit, too, just to cut back on the need for further clear cutting. Of course then, when you eat an apple, you'd have to bite through the word "Jonagold" spelled out in non-toxic (yeah, right) food dye. At least with eggs you hard-boil off the letters, or crack the shell and toss the words out with it.
Getting back to the expiration date.
First, the eggs were stamped with the aforementioned, abbreviated as "Exp" with a date beside. I imagine it wasn't too long before some second or third-generation descendent of the cast of Mad Men came to the insightful conclusion that letting a consumer know when a product "expires" could carry a negative connotation. Might even make the purchaser think about his or her own death. And we can't have anyone realizing that he or she will one day die. It could lead to people realizing they don't need to buy stuff. So, in short order came the "Use by" date. Ah, that's better, yes. Make use of our food product. Use it in any number of innovative ways. None of those ways even have to involve a meal. We don't want to know.
All too soon, though, another of Don Draper's lineage chimed in. "We don't want folks to simply use our eggs. "Use" is such an ugly word. Why do you think used cars became pre-owned? Then there's the fact that people use each other. They show each other a good time and then they toss one another aside like a victim in a Hitchcock film. No, gentlemen, our eggs are better than "use by."
Enter "Enjoy by". Now I'm being ordered, and I don't like it. But, these bastards know what they're doing. Plant "enjoy" in our brain pans over a long enough period of time and, damn it, enjoy those freaking eggs is exactly what we'll do. After all, which would you fork over more money for, something you used or something you enjoyed? (This is why power tools, and, for that matter, sex toys, do not need to screw around with terminology -- they deliver on both the "use" and "enjoy" fronts.)
Primed as I was by my reflections on eggs, this week I see the trailer for Clint Eastwood's new movie Hereafter, and it stars Matt Damon and everything, and so it gets to the part where they advertise the names and previous credits of the people involved in the project and up comes the legend "Academy Award® winner Matt Damon." Now, the fact that Matt Damon has won an Oscar is, of course, true, but he won it for Best Original Screenplay, not for acting. Don't get me wrong; I have no intention of going on a rant about Matt Damon's acting. I think he's a superlative thespian. He may even get an Oscar nomination for Hereafter. What bugged me was that, indeed, he's an actor in Hereafter. He didn't write it. However, the designation of him as an Academy Award® winner in a trailer for a film in which he is an actor creates an association in the mind: that the thing he is doing in this movie must be the thing for which he was given the Academy Award®. If feels disingenuous. And manipulative.
Ah, well. Eggs and Matt Damon do not hold the patent on this stuff. It's been around a long time and you can see it in everything from a "Hope" poster to a "Mission Accomplished" banner to the fact that people who work at Target are not merely employees, but team members. Maybe, in the end, we are all hard-wired to create pleasing associations about ourselves in the public's mind. By doing so, we increase the odds of a favorable outcome for whatever it is we are putting out to the world. And I'm not just saying this as the award-winning (not for this blog) author of another post on the delightful (most would agree) Huffington Post, which I hope you will enjoy by 10/29/10.
James Napoli is an author and humorist. More of his comedy content for the Web can be