It was five years or more before I realized there was a diner within walking distance of the convention center. Its been less than that since it agreed to clothe itself in one big advertisement for whatever TV series or channel is (or wants to be) the next big thing. The staff is friendly and the food is good and relatively inexpensive (by San Diego standards) but the experience is like crawling through your television screen into a commercial and ordering eggs.
I was handed a comic book and shown to my seat at the end of the counter where the waitstaff hustles into the kitchen. Before I sat down a man asked me to spin a wheel for a “prize.” I did, hoping that my prize would be that he’d go away but instead received a cheap pair of sunglasses I’ll never wear. He explained the complimentary iPhone charger in front of me, the ATM outside, and the upcoming signing on Saturday by the stars of the TV show. He then sets up an iPad so i can watch clips from the show, if I so desired. He left, more servers shuffled by, and a voice asks me if I’m ready to order. I wasn’t.
Large TVs on each wall played, ad nauseum, the same four or five clips from a reality show that centered around childish pranks. As much as I didn’t want to look, I couldn’t stop watching. Not because of interest, but because it was there. I finally ordered and tried to stop looking up. I noticed no one else was given an iPad and wondered if it was a prank in keeping with the theme du jour. It seemed a pretty expensive thing to leave on the counter in front someone without first sizing them up for honesty and coordination. If I spill my coffee on it, would they add $400 to my ten dollar breakfast? Perhaps I was sized up and found adequate for being given random technology. In the end I managed to avoid spilling coffee or water on it. I also opted out of using it.
I finished up my breakfast, full of eggs and toast and a mild sense of mourning for the decline of western culture. With two more hours to kill before the show I wandered a few blocked up to a Starbucks, but not before passing a parking garage that drove the point home that I had indeed payed too much for parking.