Monday, June 4, 2012

A Rewarding Addiction

They say that there's a fine line between handy and harbinger of doom.  I guess I don't really know who they are or if they've actually ever said that, but that's been my personal observation.  Take, for example, this little contraption that I spotted in the cereal aisle on a recent trip to the grocery store:

What you see here is an official Kellogg's-branded Pop Tarts carrying case.  The craftsmanship and attention to detail is astounding.  Aside from the attractive logo in the center of the case, you'll notice that the outside of this durable plastic carry-all is fashioned in true Pop-Tarts style, complete with faux-frosting and sprinkles on both sides.  The container is custom-designed to safely and snugly transport two standard issue Pop-Tarts without fear of breakage or crumbling.

At first glance, this seems like a potentially practical little invention for the Pop-Tart-loving breakfast crowd--that's where the handy comes in.  But when it comes right down do it, I've gotta believe that anyone serious enough about Pop-Tarts to require an official carrying case is on the fast track to a major problem...hence the harbinger of doom scenario.

Don't get me wrong; Pop-Tarts can be a tasty treat, and by no means did childhood pass me by without me eating my fair share of the world's foremost toaster pastry.  Back in my day, I was partial to the simple-but-elegant Frosted Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tart.  I haven't had one in years, but I've noticed that the Pop-Tarts brand has been stricken with a bad case of flavor proliferation since the heyday of my youth.

I can understand the classics like Blueberry and Strawberry, but kids these days face an impossible array of crazy choices.  Guava Mango? Dulce de Leche? Vanilla I-Scream Cone?  Kellogg's is really testing the limits of artificial flavoring here.  Who knows what's next...

But I digress...back to the carrying case.  If you're so passionate about your Pap-Tarts that pastry breakage is a leading cause of stress if you're life, that's a serious sign that you have a problem.  Similarly, if you're so desperate for your morning Pop-Tart fix that you're packing them on business trips in a monogrammed case, trouble is on the horizon. That simple plastic holster tells the world that you're a hard-core fanatic...a person who knows deep down that just because breakfast is the most important meal of the day doesn't mean that it has to be the healthiest...a person who firmly believes that Low Fat Pop-Tarts are a crime against humanity. 

Pop-Tarts have their place, but let's face it: there aren't the healthiest breakfast option.  The official Pop-Tart carry-all is to toaster pastry junkies what the flask is to alcoholics. And once you get started on the tarts, it's tough to stop.  First, you're buying the standard 8-count, you've worked your way up to a 12-pack a day.  Before you know it, you're buying the 36-pack, marked-for-resale case from Sam's Club. 

But you're not interested in reselling, are you?  Before long, you're writing Kellogg's desperate letters every day, begging them to create an offcial Pop-Tarts suitcase to support your growing habit.  By the time you're dragging Pop-Tarts luggage with you everywhere you go, it's hard to remember the day when you first eyed that innocent, two-tart carrying case hanging in the cereal aisle.

It's a serious problem, indeed, but at recently as two years ago, Kellogg's encouraged its loyal addicts with an official rewards program.  Specially marked packages included unique codes that tart-lovers could enter online, presenting them with the opportunity to win fabulous prizes including, but not limited to: music downloads, movie tickets, photo prints, magazine subscriptions, or, best of all...more Pop-Tarts (it's a vicious cycle, I know).  Interestingly, the ultimate Pop-Tarts reward is not pictured anywhere in the official program guidelines, and it doesn't require a single point to redeem: the expanding waistline.

But don't despair; where there's an addiction, there's someone waiting with a twelve-step program to help sufferers kick the habit.  I don't know what a Pop-Tarts recovery program looks like, but I can only assume that the journey begins by weaning the addict off of actual Pop-Tarts, perhaps transitioning them to an undesirable flavor of a lesser, off-brand toaster pastry:

From there, the addict graduates to eating sugared white bread, then sugared whole wheat bread, and eventually--with a few relapses sprinkled in for good measure--regular, plain, unsweetened, whole wheat bread.  Throw in some healthy doses of prayer, personal inventory, and apology, and before you know it, you've got a fully-functional member of society who's put the Pop-Tarts case on the shelf for good.

So before you pick up that attractive toaster holster, give it a second thought.  It's a slippery and delicious slope...

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