Monday, November 22, 2010

And kiss those Crackerjacks prizes goodbye

Now that election day is behind us, local governments can return their attention to doing what they do best: writing legislation that leaves people scratching their heads, not to mention shaking their fists. Their latest serving? Moderately Happy Meals to the children of San Francisco.

On Election Day, San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted to ban fast-food restaurants' practice of including toys with kids' meals. “Good grief,” one proud citizen wrote the board, “we are being lead by a bunch of idiots!”

Never mind that any McDonald’s would require about five minutes to re-price those Happy Meals without the toys and sell them as a separate item on the menu board.

Never mind, too, that parents have always been able to take the family elsewhere for a low-sodium, low-fat meal with fruit and veggies. And afterward, of course, to stop into McDonald’s to buy just the toy—tugging along their wailing offspring, who by now are starving.

Besides those inconvenient truths, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the things McDonald’s includes with kids’ meals. (Those 12 million Shrek glasses with the cadmium-laced paint were sold separately.) So why didn’t San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors do what they really wanted and try banning the high-sodium, high-fat meal that lacked fruit and vegetables? Besides lawsuits, I mean, from grownups who inhale even more of the food.

We might never know. But you’ve heard the saying, "As California goes, so goes the nation.” So since San Francisco's board of supervisors has overridden the mayor's veto, you might as well get ready for other laws, across the nation but inspired by San Francisco, that ban one thing to stop another—in this case, the ingestion of foods the government deems undesirable for their sugar, salt or fat content. And by accident, spreading this practice from the Golden State to the rest of us would even fix more vexing problems.

Everybody liked making fun of airline food till it mostly went away, and now you can’t even bring a bottle of water aboard to wash down the sandwich and chips you crammed into your carry-on bag. But once airlines can’t throw in free sodium-laden pretzels with the purchase of an airline ticket, you’ll have to sit in the terminal, ticket in hand, and eat those pretzels—and never fly anywhere. Added benefit: You get to avoid the humiliating TSA pat-down.

Liked to be fussed over in a luxury hotel, with the little pleasure of getting back from dinner to find a small mint placed upon your pillow? Can’t have that sugar spike, Congress is bound to decree. So you can check in at the desk, pay up-front for your posh room and be handed—instead of a key—just the mint. You’ll never see the room. Added benefit: You won’t take any bedbugs home.

You can tell I’m not in the travel industry for saying this practice wouldn’t be all bad. Take those catered meetings at the office. If they’re held first in the morning, you might get coffee and donuts; if lunchtime, maybe pizza. But the conference-room phone is ringing…however did Congress get this number? Okay, we get it…can’t have both the meeting and the grub.

We might not get any more work done, but we’ll sure call those meals happy.

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