Die in a fire.

Deep breaths.
Deeeeeeep, cleansing breaths.

I do not watch American Idol.
If I wanted to watch a karaoke competition, I could do it live in Chicago. Hell, I could get wasted and participate in one some Saturday night.
But I don't.
The first few seasons had some real talent.
The audition episodes lasted a week, and the few terrible wannabes lampooned by the judges were half-sad, half-hilarious — and honestly didn't get it. Now, half the people who audition are there because they know they can be on Fox or become a YouTube sensation. Talent dilution.
No one booed when Simon Cowell so much as opened his mouth. Simon Cowell, who offers the only real critiques on the show.
Ellen DeGeneres didn't get to sit at the judges' table. Why is she even there? Go dance on your own show.
There were no celebrity "mentors" or product placement. Never before have non-country singers loved Ford vehicles so much.

And most of all, there were no "hometown parades" screwing up my morning Starbucks run.

Lee DeWyze, one of the final three contestants — apparently — is from Mount Prospect, a neighboring suburb to where I work.
Each of the lucky three gets to return to their respective roots before the finals and lavished with cheering "Maybe if I get close enough, I can be on TV!!!" adoration from hometown fans.
So, of course, we got a memo (faxed to us, no less) from the local police department saying our lives were going to be flipped, turned upside-down today. Lee DeWyze, after throwing out the first pitch at this afternoon's Cubs game, will ride in a motorcade out to Mount Prospect, visit the schools he attended then perform for a sold-out crowd of 30,000 at…Arlington Park Race Track.
Which I can see from here. Palinesque.

I drove to work this morning because I knew the spray-tanned, bedazzled suburban crowds at the train station later would be too much for my fragile urban sensibilities to handle. I left the house at 6:45 to avoid highway traffic and was bottlenecked even worse than usual.
I blame Lee.
When I exited the highway and pulled in at Starbucks for my badly needed morning drink, the hum of pop-devotee energy nearly interrupted my bad '80s–radio frequency. And the Starbucks drive-through line wrapped around the corner.
Did American Idol completely take over the world and make it Monday?

A timeline of the morning:
7:12 a.m. Wait for state police officer to park his cruiser; it takes three tries
7:13 a.m. Walk inside, inhale fumes of Jessica Simpson's signature fragrance
7:15 a.m. Stand in line
7:17 a.m. Write the angriest tweet ever
7:20 a.m. Order my drink. From the barista who still doesn't know my drink. Because she's the worst barista ever.
7:21:45 Stand at the other end of the counter with four Oompa Loompas who very much need their Mocha Frappuccinos
7:23 a.m. Receive my drink. Which is wrong. Because worst barista ever also doesn't know how to mark cups.
7:23:30 a.m. Start to say something about how it's made wrong. Decide to cut less-bad baristas a break and walk out with my wrong drink
7:25 a.m. Storm out
7:34 a.m. Stuff my face with three Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins.
7:34:52 a.m. (Two with SPRINKLES.)
7:36 a.m. Change my outlook on life

Oh, Lee DeWyze. If not for those doughnuts, you'd have had another thing coming. As if I needed another reason to hate the suburbs.
The good news: I plan to be out of this place and on my way back to civilization before he picks up a microphone this afternoon.
But you, American Idol?
You've ruined music. Made everyone think they know what a good vocalist sounds like. Made everyone think they can sing, actually, think they can get their 15 minutes. You've turned America into a bunch of fame-seeking karaoke trolls. For that? Die in a fire.

Edit, 11:28 a.m. Well. It's hard to be snarky and hateful when management has just notified us that the office will close three hours early so we can get the hell out before the DeWyze-acres take over the world.