All Hail: Feeling ill? Maybe it’s the billboards

Earn up to $2,000 a week at home! Just call …

When I get to another Stephen Dedalus chapter in Ulysses, I give up and close the book, holding it loosely to my chest. That would be nice, I think. No more miserable commute. Darling to Huntington to Green Line to Park Street to Red Line to Quincy Adams to … The trolley squeals and jumps, so I grip the pole tighter and shake with the train. Ha. $2,000 at home, eh? Sounds reasonable. I wonder who actually calls that number. Boston should be more responsible with its advertising, I think. Salutations sir or madam, my name is Olaf Manilgasula, I am a Nigerian prince, and I beseech your kindly assistance in transferring $3.2 million … At Downtown Crossing, two giggling girls, both talking on cell phones, squeeze between bodies across from me.

Taste the Cold.

Above them, an advertisement shows a well-groomed hand pouring out two refreshing Coors cans to a cup held in another well-groomed hand, over an out-of-focus view of a baseball field. Ha. I was at Fenway a week ago, waiting 20 minutes with that picture in mind before I realized that there’s no such thing as the Beer Man. They come around hawking peanuts and cotton candy and lemonade and Pepsi and foam fingers and Papa Gino’s handstretcheddoughbrickovenbaked pizza. So I waited in line 20 minutes. Thanks, Coors. Six-fifty and it wasn’t even hand-delivered. Or cold. Taste the lukewarm, maybe. Snotty Blonde and Nodding Brunette put away their Razrs and SB immediately starts jabbering. See, this hot guy she poked on Facebook added her and he likes the same music as her and just wait until you see his picture. NB flips through a celebrity gossip magazine and nods.


I wonder if she’s listening. Silly, all of it. I personally wonder why she poked Mr. Facebook and whether they will ever even meet. Just one friend of 3,159. Popular girl, I’m sure. But who knows? Maybe they’ll be telling their grandchildren: Well he was a friend of a friend of a friend (of a friend) and was hot and liked Bloc Party, so I poked him. And he added me. And the rest, as they say, is history. Probably not. Funny I’m thinking this, when confidant NB just nods and wants to know if it’s true: could Brad really leave Angie? For Jen, maybe. But why? What is it that Jen does so well? She was in Friends, then about three movies, and 50,000 magazine covers. “America’s Sweetheart,” I’ve heard her called. “America’s BabyDaddyDramaQueen” perhaps. A walking, breathing, posing advertisement selling nothing.

Do you suffer from depression? Earn up to $200 by participating in a study …

I suffer from too much advertising, I think. I can’t stand all the self-promotion and exploitation, the deception and scheming, the poking and adding. People can be so self-centered and vain. Advertising products and tastes and bodies and personalities. I consider turning back to Dedalus, but I never know what the hell that guy’s talking about. Then I see it:

Your Ad Here.

And I look down at my book, the title conveniently exposed. I remember how on the train a month ago my arm conveniently obscured the title of a certain book about a certain wunderkind in a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry. I look a few inches lower, to the belly I am sucking in to fit into this small t-shirt, emblazoned with a certain musician’s name and likeness. I think of my, ugh, Facebook homepage. Oh, if that were an ad on the trolley. And who would call that number? Saluations sir or madam … or Do you suffer from … or Taste the … or Just call …

But most likely:

Help wanted.

– Ryan Menard is a junior journalism major.

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