Great Expectations

One good thing about meeting my imaginary friend Bertie at Five Guys is that they give you a lot of fries. I'm not a big fan of their fries (they're the squishy Boardwalk style), but volume is good where Bertie is concerned. As his position in "the entertainment industry" always leaves him short, it's nice to have a meal that is barely affected by his mooching.

I ask him how the radio gig went.

"You mean the one where I review the book based on title alone?" he asks. I nod. "Okay, I guess. But I don't have time for that any more, so I've let Bob take over."

"Is he going to be able to get up the nerve to go on the radio?" I ask. Bertie's brother is a little nervous sometimes.

"I thought so," Bertie says with a frown. "But I gave him Life of Pi to review. He wasn't supposed to read it, of course. It was just an aide-de-memoire, you might say."

"But he read it, didn't he?" Bertie nods. "Geez, that kid trapped in a boat with a tiger must have really freaked him out."

"I couldn't get him out from under his bed for two days. I wanted to tell him that, you know, that whole tiger-in-a-boat thing is just made up, but I couldn't," Bertie says.

"Why not?"

"Because that would have ruined the author's point, you know, about a story sometimes being better to believe in than the reality?"

"I'm not sure --" I start.

"Anyway, let's get back to talking about me," he interrupts. "I've got a new business idea. Did you like Life of Pi?"

"Um," I said. "You're making me dizzy. I guess it was all right. I did think that since it won the Booker Prize, it would -- I don't know -- wow me or something."

"Exactly!" he said. "What you needed was someone to lower your expectations, right? You know, let you know that the thing is worth reading, but not to get your hopes up too high. What did you think of Sideways?"

"The movie?" I shrug. "It was okay. Not what I expected from all the excitement."

"Just imagine how great you'd have thought it was if I had told you it was pants to begin with."

"But if you tell me it's no good, I might not bother," I tell him.

"Ah, that's the fine line my de-hyping service will have to traverse. Look at The Incredibles."

"That would've been great no mater what --" I say.

"Exactly!" he says again. "But we'd still tell you it was only 'ok.' That'll keep your expectations normalized. You never know when we mean it or not, so you can get a real buzz when you do enjoy it."

"I don't know," I say as I finish my burger. "It sounds kind of iffy --"

"Oh, we'll tell you if something really stinks, of course. That way you need us. What did you think of your burger?"

"Oh, it was a good burger and all. I don't know if it was worth waiting for."

"If only someone hadn't raised your expectations about it, eh? The bar was just too high."

"Yes, well. Anyway, how are you going to advertise your de-hyping service?"

"Bertie's De-hyping Service," he says and part his hands as if opening a banner. "Give us the chance to lower your expectations."

"How about this," I offer. "If you don't have expectations, you'll never be disappointed."

"Now, you're getting it," he says and takes the last fry. "Come help me. I'm taking Bob to the zoo today."

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