Sitting at home last night and partaking of some choice television offerings, that happy commercial met my eyes. Again.

The McRib has returned. But only for a limited time.

The McRib strikes me as some sort of cultural icon that unites us all as brothers and sisters of this world, sharing with each other the bounty this great Earth has made possible for us celestial dwellers. What but the McRib can we all claim to have shared, if not in taste, certainly in culture and conscience. It inspires us to a higher plateau, to an urgency seen but once or twice a year lasting for perhaps a month, maybe longer, then overtaken by a Shamrock Shake, or Hot Wheels and Barbie toys for the little ones.

It drives us into a frenzy and compels us to sign a petition begging McDonald's to bestow its McRib plentitude upon us permanently, unendingly, to give us spare tires and third chins and a girth of which the ladies dare not speak in their adjoining bathroom stalls.

But away it always goes, to a land or region known not to us. We stand on the hillsides, looking into the sunset as the McRib journeys off to another time zone, where it will reside for a limited time only, before making another journey chasing another sunset. And then that snowy morning hits us, and like an aunt or uncle who makes that annual visit and chases you out of your bedroom for a week and forces you to brush your teeth in the downstairs bathroom, the McRib returns.

Yes, the McRib provokes a wide spectrum of responses from those devotees who understand that things only rise to cult success because they make a huge splash and then go away too quickly, like The Family Guy and that blond-headed duo, Nelson. The aforementioned petitioners responded by begging for more, by begging for a permanent place in the McFood pantheon of sanwiches, by begging to lose their devotion to the cultish McRib by its introduction into the mainstream.

This young man opines that perhaps the skittish nature of the McRib and its inability to last more than a limited time only traces back to an elusive animal. Yes, I can see it now, the McRibalope, hard to encounter on the plains of the Serengetti, harder to track and harder still to kill, slather in imitation barbecue sauce and cover with two pickles. A decent theory, I do say, and maybe it could give rise to a Greenpeace campain for that capitalistic McDonald's, a message that Ray Croc's company understands the desire for fatty meat, but that it refuses to hunt the McRibalope into extinction.

Of course, amongst us we will always have the non-believers, those who do not subscribe to the greatness that the masses worship. In political terms we call them hippies, heretics (see: Spanish inquisition) and people who voted for Ralph Nader. In McRib terms we call them vegans, tofudobeasts. We call them healthy. He snicker as they complain about this pressed-meat atrocity.

But the nay-sayers be damned. The McRib intends to stick around for a long time to come. It just tours your neighborhood for a limited time only, then the McRib team slides down their McPoles, changes into McStreet clothes, jumps in the McSUV and darts off to the next town, Mayor McCheese at the wheel pushing 90.

I have never partaken of a McRib myself, nor do I think I ever will. And yet every time it comes around, I take notice of its arrival and hope that its occasional presence in the background of my life will continue on, year by year, always for a limited time only.