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Commercially Clobbered

Suddenly, the eardrum-splitting TV volume seemed to mute. My friends stared at me as though I'd just supported a Snookie-for-Senate campaign. "I am totally going to Denny's on Tuesday!"
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During Sunday's Super Bowl, my friends roundly ridiculed me on two separate occasions -- both times in response to my response to commercials.

The first wave of derision crashed down upon me during the Skecher's Shape Ups ad, which touted their new exercise sneaker. "I just bought those!" I exclaimed, a little too excitedly. Thank you, Bloody Mary's. Instantly, I braced for the onslaught. It was like yelling out in the high school football locker room, "I've got an extra ticket to the Queen concert if anybody wants to join me!" (Not that anyone can prove I ever did that.)

But my pals assumed I was joking. "Good one, Reidy." Idiotically, I kept talking. "No, seriously. I bought them on Tuesday." Suddenly, the eardrum-splitting TV volume seemed to mute. My friends stared at me as though I'd just supported a Snookie-for-Senate campaign. I can save this, I thought.

"You guys should try Shape Ups. Really. I don't understand the physics, but you're off balance the whole time so you have to flex your abs and really straighten your posture. I can feel it in my quads, my ass - I bet you can! - and my lower back. Low impact, high results!" Surprisingly, I had no takers. The game came back on and everyone was thankful for the distraction.

Later, Denny's aired a commercial touting their second annual free Grand Slam breakfast giveaway. I did not make it last year, and pledged to not be denied in 2010. "I am totally going to Denny's on Tuesday!"

This time, my friends did not assume I was joking. Instead, they looked at me with pity. "Dude, it's only saving you $6." Yep! I will do just about anything for a free lunch. On more than one occasion I've spent more on gas than the midday meal would've cost me, but considered it a win for my wallet. Another buddy scoffed. "Besides, it's Denny's."


In my early teens, I freaking loved Denny's. Remember when they'd give you your entrèe free on your birthday? I'd make my parents take me to Denny's for mine. I always got the Super Bird. I just salivated while typing that sentence.

I arrived at the Redondo Beach, CA franchise at 12:08, a bit later than I would have liked. A dozen people milled outside the doors. Inside, every chair was taken. The bus boys sported far-away-gazes as they feverishly wiped down greasy tables. I spotted the tired, but upbeat manager calling out names from the waiting list.

I looked around and noticed I was the only "solo" in this sea of humanity. Talk about a melting pot: babies and octogenarians; whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. Tons of high school kids; truant officers take heed! (If they even have truant officers, anymore.)

I also realized everybody there was smiling! Nobody discriminates against a free lunch, I guess.

After waiting just ten minutes, I was seated. I tried to remember the last time I'd been to a Denny's. Maybe a golf trip to Scottsdale in 2001? We were plastered and my friend Mike kept calling the Outback Steakhouse "Eight-back." But then I recalled a trip to Honolulu in 2007 to see Pearl Jam open for U2. Again, late night. Again, blotto. My head hurt from trying to think of a sober, daytime patronage of Denny's.

Five minutes after ordering, my Grand Slam (scrambled eggs) and Diet Coke arrived. I'd considered going with only water, so I could giggle at a bill that read "$0.00." The majority of my fellow diners did just that. But caffeine addiction overrode keepsake desire. $2.19 for a DC? Are you even serious?

Getting the Grand Slam after noon did give me pause, though. I have never had eggs for lunch, since I am particular about the traditional time for breakfast. Sure, I've had eggs as part of a Cobb Salad or whatever, but never as a main component of lunch. So, I was a bit nervous to step outside my Rain Man comfort zone. Shame on me; like Denny's could ever disappoint!

Light, fluffy eggs. Golden brown pancakes. Two bacon strips and two sausage links, both crispy just like I like 'em. I rarely finish a meal; this was an exception.

When the bus boy removed my plate, I looked down. Advertised on my placemat was this unfair offer: bottomless pancakes and French Fries tomorrow. To repeat: on Wednesday February 10th, you can get all the pancakes and fries you can eat. Damn you, Denny's!

I think I'll walk there this time. In my Shape Ups.