On the way in, I and some of my fellow professional consumers became addled as to how to get into the building where the group was held, as after striding about the glass-walled canyon along the Tollway, we found 4 beautiful revolving doors and one side entrance, all locked.
"Try to hustle, they're starting," the cell-phoned lady said.
"But! but! Never mind," my mental antagonist railed. But hustle we all did, through the parking garage and up to the 8th floor of the glinting building to make our $32.50 per hour.
There were 18 participants, all with numbered nametags. "Stay in number order!" they insisted as we filed into the room, complete with TV/VCR, board meeting chart paper, 2-way mirrors, three-pronged receiving antenna setup on a nearby table, and keypads below our seats. I and my fellow latefolk comprised the back row of this quasi-random assemblage of educated, literate youngish people, all with cars and access to ways of making enough scratch to supply a night's drinking or three full gastanks or so.
By this time, the other 4 latefolk and I had bonded over being equally sweaty, breathless and in possession of a sense of humor (not to mention the fear of losing $65 of nearly workless cash), and we were all kind of sniggering at random things. I, in particular, have a problem with undue sniggering just at life in general, especially when it's inappropriate. And there was a silly little man running the show, who's life work was, among other things, the successful marketing of fried bits of sliced potato.
Now at the end, my feeling on the whole 2 hours of viewing and discussion of 22 snippets of possible future potato chip commercials was this: "Sweet. I'll mouth off my opinion without anyone even asking, and I just made $65 for basically having a 'Who Can Be Wittiest About How The Chips Fell Into The Bowl' contest." (Although, I did strive to bring a philosophical angle into the discussion by noticing in particular the role of Light used as a leitmotif throughout the presentation.)
However, there was one moment, right there at the beginning, where an unspoken terror crept into my mind: "Oh my God, what trusting sheep we are. This could be a terrorist plot. Or just plain criminal action. Or a secret machination of the CIA. We all walked in here, showed our IDs to prove who we were, and marched right into a room, with listening, observation and recording devices, under the control of a group of people none of us know personally, all for the promise of $65. Now here we sit, awaiting whatever images they want to show us, which could be ANYthing at all. And me without so much as even a weapon-like object. Well, I certainly hope that I'm just being paranoid."