On a recent trip to the super market -- this is what passes for a good time when you're in your 40s -- the shelves were filled with products a bit too user-friendly for their own good.
Case in point: new Raid Ant and Roach Killer with "Country Fresh Scent."
Is it me, or is this just too incongruous for words?
Here you have a product designed to obliterate insects by the thousands, to have them writhing in the most agonizing death throes before they end up stretched out all over the house in little insect body bags.
And you want the stuff to smell like Dolly Parton's kitchen?
The people at Raid don't exactly soft-pedal the whole issue of mass destruction, either.
Right on the label, it says: "Kills on Contact. Keeps on Killing for Up to 4 Weeks."
But I'd be willing to bet this is the first time the words "Kills," "Keeps on Killing" and "Country Fresh Scent" have appeared on the same product.
To me, this is sort of like the people at Smith & Wesson eliminating the smell of cordite from their .45s in favor of amaretto potpourri.
Anyway, as I examined the sleek new can with its fashionable burgundy-and-yellow color scheme, one question jumped immediately to mind: What was wrong with the old Raid?
The old Raid, not to put too fine a point on it, smelled like napalm.
In effect, it was napalm, at least as far as the insects were concerned.
You could imagine them in their little ant and roach colonies -- beneath the kitchen sink, on the back deck, wherever -- trembling in fear and sounding the little insect air-raid sirens as a can of Raid loomed on the horizon as large as a B-52.
Then, with the whole colony in a panic, this can would let loose a horrifying stream of lethal poison.
And just like that, it was lights out for what, 2,000 of them?
How do you come back from an experience like that?
Now they want it to smell like Jimmy Dean's back yard.
Anyway, seeing the new Raid was depressing enough. But then, pushing my cart through the frozen foods section, I came upon another product that absolutely made my blood run cold.
This was something called Frosty Paws, a "Frozen Treat For Dogs."
"It's not ice cream," read a breathless notation on the box, "but your dog will think it is!"
At this point, I had to actually steady myself against a nearby rack of Doritos and commence a series of deep-breathing exercises to regain my composure.
And I thought: Can you believe this? This great nation has declined to such an extent we're now worried that our pets are missing out on the Ben & Jerry's experience.
According to the propaganda on the back of the box, Frosty Paws was developed by an animal nutrition specialist at Ohio State University named Dr. William Tyznik, who is pictured beaming like he's Jonas Salk after the development of the polio vaccine.
In the kind of folksy prose you'd expect from a Midwesterner, Dr. Tyznik stresses that this is not some doggie Haagen-Dazs, which would be bad for a dog's stomach.
"But," he concludes confidentially, "you don't have to tell your dog it's not really ice cream. . . . That'll be our little secret."
Great. Now we're being asked to lie to our dogs. That ought to make for a healthy relationship with Man's Best Friend.
By now, of course, my mind was a vast puddle of goo and I considered ditching the shopping cart in the middle of the aisle and fleeing.
But then a strange calm came over me. And I thought: Well, OK, Country Fresh Raid, Frosty Paws . . . it can't get any worse than this.
Naturally, I was wrong.
Because suddenly I found myself in the pet products aisle, staring at a bright yellow box called People Crackers ("The People Dogs Love to Eat!").
These were tiny doggie treats in the shape of -- how sick is this? -- a mailman, a cop on the beat and a milkman.
OK, you have to wonder who's in charge of research and development at People Crackers, since there haven't been any milkmen since the Kennedy administration.
But the point is: What kind of twisted mind makes doggie treats in the shape of humans that dogs traditionally chase?
We didn't eat animal crackers in the shape of baby seals, did we?