By Larry Carroll
Typically, most people have to wait until their birthdays to run the free-treat gamut from Denny's to Cold Stone to Steak 'n Shake. But this is an election year — in fact, it might be the most important election year of our lifetimes — and even if you can't tell the difference between Joe Biden and Joe the Plumber, a slew of free tasty treats are yours for the taking on Tuesday.
Maybe you'd like to start your morning with a red-white-and-blue-sprinkled doughnut from Krispy Kreme. Then you could wash it down with a Tall coffee at Starbucks. The taste of free stuff is undeniably delicious, but is that coffee too hot for your tongue? Then be sure to cool things down with a scoop of ice cream from your local Ben & Jerry's.
If you feel your waistline growing a few sizes, it's no problem — just keep that "I Voted" sticker on your jacket and go shopping! In New York, handbag and clothing boutique Hayden-Harnett is giving voters 20 percent off and free wine at the door. Before the buzz wears off, head over to Trina Turk boutique for another 20 percent off your favorite item — a comically enormous hat, perhaps. And don't forget to pair your new chapeau with one of those head-turning "FCUK" T-shirts from French Connection, where you'll get 15 percent off your purchase.
Take those shopping bags to the airport and fly out to Los Angeles, and you'll be rewarded with 20 percent off some screenplay software at the Writer's Store and a free "Writer" hat if you're among the first 50 voters to come in. Grab a free taco at California Tortilla, then head on over to the Daily Grill for a free happy-hour appetizer. Sit down with your laptop, "Writer" hat and new software, and who knows? Maybe you could land a job penning the inevitable Oliver Stone movie about Election '08.
Do you live between the coasts? As Barack Obama would say, there's no need for drama. Shane's Rib Shack will hook you up with a three-piece chicken-tender plate, the Chattanooga Hot Dog Company will get real creative and give you a hot dog, and Todd Conner's pub in Baltimore will stick a brewski in your hand to help wash it all down.
Wow, you might be thinking, I can get a lot of free junk on Election Day simply by casting a vote! But what do I do about my filthy car, "Mitt Romney '08" tattoo and all those sex toys I've been meaning to buy? On Tuesday, taking care of such worries is as easy as shooting wolves from a helicopter.
In Pittsburgh, Haddad's Car Wash is giving away free washes to anybody with an "I Voted" sticker. New Look Laser Tattoo Removal in Dallas is offering a freebie to anybody who will even "give us your word" that they punched a ballot. And as your day is winding down, you might want to swing into Babeland sex-toy stores, where they're giving away devices like the "Maverick" and promising that even if your candidate doesn't win, you'll still end up satisfied.
All in all, America's struggling corporations are battling the bad economy by offering dozens of reasons why you need to vote this year. And if free donuts and sex toys aren't reason enough for you — well, there's always that whole "it's your civic duty" thing.