Digital Slob

Curt Brandao

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Our lifeblood comes
in tiny red packets

While most Digital Slobs spend a huge chunk of their lives in cyberspace (or as functional shut-ins with high-speed connections, you pick the term) we do still exist, if in somewhat incorrect proportions, on the earthly plane.

Thus, we require sustenance to survive. But while Respectable People can get by on food, water, shelter and a healthy 401(k), the lives of Digital Slobs revolve around another life-giving force: Ketchup.

Somewhere between oxygen and "Matrix" sequels, ketchup plays a vital role in our lives. We become emotionally disturbed by its absence, make food choices based on its availability and act out for it with behaviors best described as addictive.

As kids, everything we ate was basically differently textured ketchup; from squirting it up and down hot dogs to creating glistening red spirals atop hamburger patties, childhood memories keep the condiment high on our tabletop pedestal. Ketchup's not only a tasty sauce, but also the closest most adults get to daily arts and crafts.

Psychologist Donna Dawson has identified "sauciological" types, based on ketchup use. Control freaks dunk into a well of ketchup; career climbers "splodge" the sauce in the middle of food; artistic flakes squirt and swirl ketchup in thin lines, and repressed conservatives dot the stuff on chow.

And, if you put ketchup in $200 porcelain saucers, you likely own Third World clothing factories manned by underage slave labor. But, these are just generalities (I think Kathy Lee Gifford keeps salsa, not ketchup, in a cruet, not a saucer, for example).

Since half of what Digital Slobs eat is pulled through our car's driver's-side window, ketchup is our major source of nutrition. Filled with cancer-fighting lycopene, it's one of the healthiest items fast-food joints offer. Ironic, then, that it's handed out for free, if doled out in tiny portions.

Ketchup's only downside, then, is its scarcity. Nothing sours a Digital Slob more than coming home with dinner all super-sized and ready, only to find no red packets in the bag. Thankfully, just as some people only sip booze in public but get "sauced" at home, most Digital Slobs keep three ketchup bottles in their pantry to supplement the measly ration society deems is our due.

Most cultures (even ours) subscribe to the virtue of moderation to keep the world from spinning out of control. It's a delicate balance, easy to upset.

Imagine a fast-food server asking a Digital Slob freed from civilized constraints, "How many packets of ketchup would you like?"

"Forty-five, please," he says, shattering the social contract.

Hushed silence befalls McDonald's. Everyone turns to look. The customer is always right, after all. What can be done except give him what he asked for? He can't be charged. There's no button on the register for ketchup. So everyone watches a mound of ketchup forms on his tray.

After a short, strained pause, the dam breaks and the crowd rushes the counter to loot all the ketchup. Riots ensue. The National Guard is called. Before you know it, governments are toppling and Mel Gibson is fighting learning-impaired giants.

So, whether it arrives in tiny packets or in thimble-sized cups, it's clear society is best served if we continue this ketchup double life, taking tiny dabs in broad daylight, sucking down gallons in the privacy of our homes.

Better to live a lie, after all, than to only eat at post-apocalyptic, ketchup-barren Taco Bells.

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's
production editor. Reach him at


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