January 18, 2012

Pushers don't usually come out and say they're trying to get you hooked on something. They find a way to get you started, making it a no-brainer. Before you know it, you need a 12-step program and a sponsor.

That's the way it worked with Lady Laura and Switzer's Chewy Lemonade Twists. We were walking through the supermarket and on one of the end caps she spied a huge display of twists - basically candy that looks like licorice but isn't. (They started it in all these different flavors because they finally realized that 90 percent of the population actually hates the taste of licorice.)

The magic hook, though, is that they were 10 bags for 10 bucks. If you do the math, that's just a buck a bag, the magic price that makes something ... anything ... irresistible. That is why millions of Americans go into dollar stores looking for just one item and walk out with 14 bulging plastic bags, 100 bucks poorer.

My wife brought home enough Chewy Lemonade Twists to last a normal family a couple of months. But my wife made short work of it, plowing through Chewy Lemonade Twists at night, between meals and sometimes as a side dish during meals. One morning, she went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple twists before her morning cereal, walking around the kitchen with one hanging out of the side of her mouth like a cigar.

I'm no stranger to obsessive devotion to one particular food to the detriment of all others. It's just that I prefer to concentrate my energies on a food that meets all my daily nutritional needs - it goes with anything. It's called coconut M&Ms. Actually, any M&Ms will do - I just happen to love coconut a smidgen more than I love chocolate.

But my wife became fixated on the yellow menace, and she tryed to convince me that she had to eat as much as she could before it went "out of season." Then one night last week, as we were heading to bed, Laura turned to me and confessed she had a problem.

"I need you to do something for me," she said. "Before I go into the kitchen tomorrow you have to make the Chewy Lemonade Twists disappear. I don't care where they go, they just have to be gone."

After I was sure she was sound asleep I gathered the remaining twists and stuffed them into my briefcase. Then I waited until daybreak and I took them to my buddy Les and told him to put them on the "table" where he used to work. (He's retired but he still goes to his office almost every day.) Every office has one - yours does too - a table where people can bring in donuts, candies, even leftovers from home. Within hours, whatever it is, it'll be gone.

Office workers are like dung beetles. You could leave a box with a skull and crossbones on it, marked "Poison" in big black letters, and someone would come along and taste what's inside. As soon as that person didn't die, the rest would line up like lemmings. Les said it took two hours for the entire package of Chewy Lemonade Twists to vanish.

After I got back home, I was in the kitchen getting my breakfast when Laura came in and started rustling through the cupboard. I could hear her frantically pushing aside (actually crushing) healthy items, and we both knew what she was looking for.

Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me that sounded vaguely like the possessed girl in "The Exorcist."

"Where," she growled, sending a chill down my spine, "are the LEMON TWISTS!"

"You TOLD me to get rid of them."

She looked me in the eye and said, "Since when do you listen to me?"

Then, yesterday, my wife and I went into the supermarket to grab some a few items items on the way home from my appointment at the VA hospital (I got an ultra-sound of my kidneys and bladder). She headed to the meat department, while I ran to get milk. We agreed to meet at the register.

When I got to the register, she was waiting, a guilty look on her face. She'd gotten meat, all right, but under the other items were two packages of Chewy Lemonade Twists. I frowned.

She looked at me. "Don't judge!" she said. "Don't judge!"

I didn't say anything as I picked up a bag of coconut M&Ms.