Dave Barry

Classic '95: Let's humor the lawyers


This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, February 26, 1995

    Before I get to today's topic, which is mutant cereal in Canada, I want to apologize in a sincerely legal manner to JOCKEY International Inc., which manufactures JOCKEY brand wearing apparel. Recently I received a certified letter from Charlotte  Shapiro, a JOCKEY brand corporation attorney, noting that, in a column concerning the issue of whether or not you can eat your underwear, I had incorrectly used the official JOCKEY brand name in the following sentence:

     "Waiter, are these JOCKEYS fresh?"

     Ms. Shapiro points out that the word JOCKEY is an official trademark, not a generic word for underwear, and it must be used "as an adjective followed by the common name for the product." Thus my sentence should, legally, have read as follows:

     "Waiter, there's a fly in these JOCKEYS!"

     I am grateful to Ms. Shapiro for making me more sensitive to this issue, and in the future if I ever hear anyone misusing the JOCKEY brand name, I will make it my business to strike that person with a Sears CRAFTSMAN brand hammer.

     Speaking of hard objects, I have here an alarming item from the oxymoronically named Canadian newspaper Northern Life, sent in by alert reader Alan Nursall. The article, by Kim Dominique-Plouffe, concerns a Sudbury, Ontario, woman named Dot Brousseau, who was pouring some Kellogg's brand CORN FLAKES cereal into a bowl when -- please try to remain calm -- out came a hard, fist-sized clump of CORN FLAKES all wadded together.

     Here in the United States, a typical consumer, confronted with this situation, would probably just take it in stride, by which I mean don a STYROFOAM brand neck brace and sue Kellogg's for $4.7 million. But Canada is not part of the United States (it is part of Iceland). So what Dot Brousseau did was contact Northern Life, which printed a story headlined WOMAN SURPRISED TO FIND A LUMP 'THE SIZE OF A FIST' IN HER CORN FLAKES BOX. The article is accompanied by a photograph of Brousseau looking concerned and holding the CORN FLAKES clump, which looks sort of like an oyster.

     Like most professional journalists, I routinely investigate any documented case of breakfast foods spontaneously wadding together, so I contacted various news sources that I have cultivated over the years, and I was able to determine that Canada  does, in fact, have telephones. I then called Dot Brousseau and asked her for an update on the situation. She told me that she had received "several compliments" on the Northern Life article, and that a number of people had come over to view her clump, which she is keeping in a BAGGIES brand plastic bag.

     She said that a Kellogg's representative had also come to her home and examined the clump, and had wanted to take it away, but she refused. "I'm going to have it analyzed," she said.

     She also said that Kellogg's had given her some free products. "They're going to bend over backward to kiss our butt," she noted.

     I asked Brousseau if she was aware of scientific experiments showing that Kellogg's strawberry POP-TART brand snack pastries will, if you place them in a toaster and hold the lever down, burst into flames within six minutes (unless you attempt to demonstrate this to a national TV audience on the David Letterman show, in which case the POP-TARTS will not ignite until after your segment has ended). Brousseau was surprised to hear this, and told me, with concern in her voice, that she had strawberry POP-TARTS in her cupboard even as we spoke.

     Canada: Land of Danger.

     Speaking of scary consumer things, I have also received, from alert reader Ron Fusco, an article from the Dec. 27, 1994, edition of The Pacific Daily News, which is published in Guam, an island located somewhere in the PACIFIC brand ocean. The top story on page one concerns a 13-year-old Guam boy whose NIKE brand shoes exploded. I am not making this up. The article, written by Elizabeth A. Thompson, quotes the boy's mother as saying that her son had jumped up to touch a beam in the garage when his shoes "seemed to explode, catching his jeans on fire."

     The story states that the shoes were turned over to the fire department; a fire official is quoted as saying that "it does appear that the explosion came from within the shoe itself."

     I want to stress that this is just one isolated incident of NIKE shoes apparently exploding. We cannot conclude that all NIKE footwear explodes, even if we feel somewhat bitter toward the NIKE brand corporation because we are forced to purchase its absurdly overpriced products for our children, who refuse to wear any other kind because they have been exposed to relentless multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns featuring athletes such as MICHAEL brand JORDAN. We should continue to purchase and wear NIKE brand shoes with total confidence, unless we happen to be among those rare individuals who need, for some medical reason, to retain the use of their feet.

     Ha ha! I am joshing, of course; I have nothing but the deepest respect and affection for the NIKE corporation and its huge legal department. So just in case I may have misused or maligned any brand names in this column, let me conclude with this  formal statement of apology to NIKE, CRAFTSMAN, KELLOGG'S, STYROFOAM, BAGGIES, MICHAEL JORDAN and any other giant corporate entity I may have offended: I'm really sorry, OK? So don't get your JOCKEYS in a knot.

© 1995, Dave Barry

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