Don't fall in love with a commercial. Chances are it may just be trying to sell you something.

I’d been warned by my more tech-savvy friends that ad agencies are listening. You are bugged, willingly bugged, they said, by microphones in your watch, your car, your television and your phone.

“You’re making me paranoid,” I laughed, only slightly unnerved five minutes later when an ad arrived on my phone for a paranoia cure, with guaranteed results, low monthly payments, and a parade of testimonials. Odd.

“Wow, that’s a great shirt,” I said aloud, a few days later, peering into a store window. I told myself I could be cool in that shirt, standing around in a hip bar on the east side of town, talking cleverly about something or other, while people admired my wit, and my shirt.

I stopped at a coffee shop to ponder my potential purchase when, seemingly by accident, she bumped into me and excused herself. Beautiful, funny and charming, she bore a striking resemblance to every actress I had ever searched for on the internet.

Our love blossomed with the speed of a carefully edited, 30-second commercial for prescription diarrhea medicine, or something, like the part toward the end of the commercial when the guy who usually stays home because he constantly shits himself is now out living his life fully, secure in his intestinal stability. We mountain biked, parasailed, shared an ice cream, and browsed the local boutique stores, all in the same improbable day.

“Oh, that shirt would look a-ma-zing on you,” she declared, emphasizing each syllable as she pointed through the window at the very same shirt that had caught my attention.

“I was thinking that same thing!”

“Oh were you?” she whispered.

She then suggested I buy it immediately, and later on that night, we could go to that hip bar on the east side of town, and I could say intelligent and refined things to people while wearing the shirt. Eerie how compatible we were. I might need that paranoia medicine after all.

We rushed in. I grabbed the shirt off the rack and approached the cashier. I inserted my credit card into the chip reader, and by the time I’d pulled it out, (transaction approved like a motherfucker), the newfound love of my life was, in fact, nowhere to be found. She’d disappeared. I inquired to the cashier if she had seen the girl who’d been standing next to me a moment ago.

“She ran out the door. NEXT CUSTOMER!”

I shuffled through the streets, a picture of misery, in a shirt that was way overpriced and kind of made me look like a douchebag. What happened?

I got my answer the next day when I happened to see the very same girl, hand-in-hand with another guy, chirping the sickening refrain, “Oh my god. That shirt would look a-ma-zing on you.” I stepped in front of her.

“Oh shit,” she said, turning to her new fellow. “Will you excuse me for a moment?” She pulled me aside, took her phone out, and coldly recited an article of indemnity at me.

“This is organic paid advertiser #225 briefing Consumer 84-59A. This is being recorded for quality assurance. Subject profile: lonely white male in need of acceptance. Subject voiced interest in item of apparel. Program of perceived validation implemented. Happiness and esteem ratios augmented. Self-worth elevated in terms of appearance. Organic paid advertiser and all pertinent agencies not responsible for flawed logic in thinking inert piece of fabric can serve as I.Q. or beauty booster. Thank you for your purchase. We appreciate your business. Have a nice life.” And just like that, she was gone.

In the ensuing days, I was barraged with ads for gardening and cleaning supplies as I paced my house openly mumbling about murdering that girl. Shovels, quicklime, rope, bleach, all 40% off. I saw myself less as a murderer and more as an ad-blocker.

But after a while things settled, and I realized she wasn’t the problem. This was my own personal test to see if I could be bigger than my algorithm. I bought a shovel that was on sale, dug a hole in my backyard and dropped my phone into it, burying it as an offering to the universe to bring randomness back into my life.

And I didn’t stop there. I planted a garden in the fresh earth, teeming with bright colors and fragrant blossoms. I erected a scarecrow, and it is he who proudly wears the douchebag shirt. He seems to like it. I sometimes consider finding her, my advertisement, to show her my garden, except I already know what she would think about it.

“It’s a-ma-zing.”

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