You know how sometimes a really elaborately constructed manipulation can produce the complete opposite effect if any part of that manipulation is compromised? And how the more complex the manipulation, the easier it is to mess up with just the slightest rip in its seams? This is a phenomenon I've written about before, but it never ceases to entertain me with its unintentional sadness. I guess that sounds a little perverse, but I find things like this funny in the same way I enjoy the weird pathos buried within news stories about people who get caught after planting their own fingertip in a Wendy's hamburger to create a needless lawsuit. (Please try to forgive my use of the word "pathos" here. I'm on a fancy streak.)
Today there is a truck parked directly in front of my office building. This is not so unusual, if you leave the statement alone and walk away. You're probably picturing a delivery truck or something. Business as usual. Today's truck, however, had a glass trailer which afforded a clean view of the truck's cargo from multiple angles. The truck was some kind of marketing promotion for a low-cal, low-carb line of snacky foods that will remain unnamed.
The snacky foods have a tie-in with a very popular diet and, to communicate this connection, the truck was filled with a thin carpet of white sand. There was a beach ball. Some beach chairs. A styrofoam cooler. A beach umbrella and a miniature volleyball net, too, I think. (But it has occurred to me that I could be imagining this last detail, mentally adding these accessories to complete the tableau in a way that suits my memory.) And, in addition to all this beach-related stuff, two models in chaste swimwear were trapped inside the truck's glass-enclosed cargo hold, like bored tropical fish.
Obviously, the point of this spectacle was to evoke a sense of "fun" and escape, and to show us (us = poor working stiffs bracing ourselves against a cold and cruel winter) a fantasy that could become our reality if only we stopped resisting and just ate a bunch of low-cal snacky foods with icing on top. (Literally, with icing on top.)
But the fantasy was rudely interrupted by several unfortunate realities. Chiefly, the models were very average looking and (at least when I walked by) were just sitting at beach chairs, hunched over the styrofoam cooler—which was being used as a makeshift table—and glumly sharing a tin of bland low-cal food.
It was really a bizarre juxtaposition, like we'd all been invited to spy on a couple of extremely sedentary gals from the office pool, as they crammed in a quick lunch in their bathing suits. Maybe, for some, that is the fantasy, but for me the gravity of its mundaneness was almost too much. Still, it all possessed a lava-lamp magnetism.
My mind started to wander as I tried to imagine the inner lives of these two glass truck models. I couldn't help tracing an imaginary line from those beach chairs to their very first dreams of modeling, and then trying to picture the exact point along that line where these two women sort of took that dream of modeling and somehow, through an elaborate series of compromises and denials, shoe-horned into the dream the act of eating low-cal snacks in cheap bathing suits, inside a parked glass truck on a busy Manhattan street.
If my gifts of fiction were a little stronger, I'd be inclined to write their story. Actually, while I was riding the elevator back to my desk, I thought of my friend, Bob. His fiction is filled with characters like this, and I spent a few moments fantasizing how he'd turn a scene like that into a backstory. (In fact, Bob, if you're reading this I am giving you an open invitation/challenge to do just that.)
Now that I've written this, I guess the marketers behind this spectacle were totally successful in constructing a fantasy for me—something on which to train my obsessions. Unfortunately, the fantasy could not possibly be further from their intentions.
[Addendum: not two days after the challenge was issued, it was met. When I say "I couldn't have done it better myself," I'm not messing around.]