Had a bad dream.
It started with a call from Peter the Re-fi Guy: "Did you know that we can refinance your home or car or many sparkly objects?"
At which point a dump truck delivered through my window an avalanche of mail: bribes to switch phone plans, pre-rejection from MasterCard, charities sending address labels with my name on them (like street people who wash your windshield like it or not).
The radio played a jingle for the once-in-a-lifetime, buy-this-or-die Toyotathon. I hummed along against my will.
On TV a man shouted at me to buy his ab machine now, now, now. On another channel the Dodgers' centerfielder made a catch between signs for IBM and Target.
"Great play!" said the announcer. "This next pitch is brought to you by Blockbuster."
The fax rang. It was Peter the Re-fi Guy. He had figures.
My computer dinged: another offer to enlarge my reproductive tackle (is my secret that widespread?). The Ambassador to Ishmuntuku also needed me, or current resident, to "urgently manage his ten million dollars."
These emails wouldn't exist if someone, somewhere, hadn't fallen for it. Where is this person, and can we get him a hotline?
"Thank you for calling the I've-Been-Scammed Hotline. The cost of this call is ten dollars a minute. A specialist will be with you in a while."
Spam gave way to pop-ups, but every time I closed one, two more emerged. Software installed itself, furniture was rearranged, radio presets changed...
"Well, you won't get a lemon((from Toyota of Orange."
I ran outside, where the clouds had formed a giant McDonald's arch. An airplane circled overhead with a banner for Doan's: "Got Back Pain?" Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that board meeting.
"I know! What if we take the old 'got milk' slogan, but instead of using the word 'milk,' we'll insert the name of our own product!" (The team beams with approval.)
My neighbor, checking his junk mail, asked if I was all right.
"Yeah," I said. "Just a little dizzy."
"That's good," he said. "Hey, I've been meaning talk to you about Amway."
I pointed my car to the interstate. An electronic sign warned about some leaflet storm, a message brought to me by Verizon High-Speed Internet, which delivers spam twice as fast as that old dial-up.
A boy in the next lane was watching commercials INSIDE A CAR! The car TV tided him over between the supermarket TV, his handheld TV, the hotel bathroom TV, and the doctor's office TV that no one, not even a hammer, can turn down. So it goes.
At the gas station, a tabloid reporter brought me up to date on Oprah Winfrey's weight, and Gillette reminded me to change blades often because "a fresh blade means a closer shave." In related news, Wal-Mart wants us to buy more crap.
Fleeing on foot, I collided with the "Shell" sign. The "s" fell off.
I found in church a pastor addressing his congregation from under a Nike hat: "And then God saith unto Moses, 'Do it, son. Just do it."
I ran past the billboards and rent-a-benches screaming, "Sell me a car! Change my plan! Give me the warranty!"
My whole life flashed above a little CNN ticker. Jimmy Bitzer, third grade bully, was punching my head, then paused to say, "Beating up your classmates can be a lot of work. That's why I drink Gatorade."
I floated to the sky, from where I could see my own tombstone. It was sponsored by Summer's Eve (when you have that not-so-fresh feeling).
Finally I awoke to a knock at the door. My real door.
I answered slowly, fearing Peter the Re-fi Guy. It was my neighbor come to return a garden hose. He chuckled at my nightmare and invited me to their barbecue. I gladly accepted, but there was something ominous about how he walked away humming the Toyotathon jingle.
This column was brought to you by MasterCard, Toyota, IBM, Target, Amway, McDonald's, Shell, Gillette, Verizon, Nike, The Dodgers, Doan's, CNN, Gatorade, Summer's Eve, Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, and the Ambassador of Ishmuntuku.