Tag Archives: Soda

The soda elitist

Last weekend we had a bunch of people over for dinner. I picked up a few two-liter bottles of soda, which, I don’t know, I couldn’t really figure out how many I should have bought, I had no idea how much soda people were planning on drinking. I’d say in total, about one and a half liters went, but it was like half a liter from each bottle. And so, as the rest of the week went by, I’d stare at these bottles, wanting to dump them all down the drain, but my roommate insisted on keeping them around, “I’ll drink them!” he said.

old soda

And maybe he had a glass the next day, but no more than a glass, because the days passed and I started to keep track of the soda level inside each bottle. Day after day, it wasn’t going down, I told Bill, I was like, “Hey man, we really have to get rid of this soda,” and he was like, “Why? Just leave it there, it doesn’t matter,” but I tried to argue, I was like, “Bill, that stuff’s getting flatter every day, nobody’s ever going to drink it, let’s just dump it, what is it, like three dollars? Come on, you couldn’t pay me three dollars to drink a cup of flat soda.”

But I think I pushed a little too far, now Bill was starting to push back just for the sake of pushing back, which I don’t get, not everything has to be a huge power struggle, but still, he averted his eyes, I think he might have called me a “soda elitist,” which I actually took as a compliment, because yes, when it comes to soft drinks, I think you have to be exacting in your standards. Otherwise why spend money at all on bottled drinks? If you don’t care about the carbonation, you might as well just buy packets of Kool-Aid, it’s significantly cheaper.

We were at a stalemate. I started buying new soda, smaller sized bottles. I’d keep them nice and cold in the fridge. On Wednesday night I ordered some pizzas and asked Bill, “Hey man, help yourself. You want a nice cold Coke to go with that?” It was the Mexican kind, the stuff that comes in the glass “hecho en Mexico” bottles, real sugar, delicious. “Yeah man, that sounds great.” And so I popped one open and extended my arm before laying down, “So, uh, I guess this means we can get rid of those big guys over there, right?”

“Actually,” he recoiled his hand, “That’s a good point. You have the bottle, I’m going to work on those leftovers.” What a jerk. Just admit it when you’re wrong. And he went over to the counter, the bottle had all of these little condensation drops on the inside from having not been opened in so long, when he opened the top, and I was listening, there wasn’t even the slightest sound of any air escaping. That soda had to have been completely flat for a few days now.

But he filled up his glass with ice, I asked him for a glass also, for my fresh Coke, I wanted him to see the bubbles dancing out of the top, when I took that first sip, I made this exaggerated face, like they tickling my nose. “Ahh,” that ridiculous refreshing sound after I took my first sip, to which Bill offered the same thing with his sip, but I could tell by the look on his face that it was gross, he kind of puckered up as he tried to choke it down.

But what came next, it was probably the low point of our friendship. I was like a slice and a half deep into dinner, and I had just taken a huge sip from my drink. While I had the rest of the pizza in my hand, Bill grabbed the two liter bottle and poured the sickly contents of that expired plastic bottle right into my cup, right on top of my good soda. I still had probably more than twenty-five percent of the cup filled with the good stuff, and it was ruined, the rest of my drink spoiled by Bill polluting it with his week-old poison.

I turned my head and said, “Get that shit out of my face,” placing extra emphasis on the word shit, just to really drive home that point, like hey Bill, that was a real dick move buddy, you want to play games with your own soda? Fine. But you’ve totally crossed a line here. And he just kind of smiled at me, “What? Just giving you a little refill,” before taking a huge bite out of his slice, the pizza that I bought for him.

I went into a rage. I grabbed that bottle, I ran to the sink, I started emptying it out down the drain. There were still the other two bottles, and Bill made a move toward the kitchen, like what was he going to do, try and stop me? I grabbed a knife out of the block and stabbed a few holes right in the bottom. “What the hell man? That’s my soda!” he screamed as I placed the leaking bottles from the counter into the kitchen sink.

Bill looked like he was going to make a move, like he was going to push me or something, and so, I don’t know, I guess I was a little more agitated than I thought. I held out the knife still in my hands, like go ahead and try something. Not that I had any intentions of actually stabbing him. The whole situation had steered out of control. And that’s when I screamed out, “Steve!” because while we were fighting in the kitchen, my dog Steve had quietly jumped off the couch and made a move for the pizza. And he got it, it only took him like three or four bites, and he polished off everything.

Four extra-large sodas

And I was like, “Just try to stay out of my way, OK?” which, yeah, it sounded a lot cooler in my head, I was going for the whole, “I got this,” or at a more basic level, “Don’t worry, don’t have any doubts in me,” but it came out the way it came out, arrogant, dismissive. It was too late for an apology, it would have killed the momentum, totally destroyed whatever we’d already set up for ourselves, the mood, the false determination.


A week earlier, my friend Rich had showed me this video online of two guys ordering four extra-large sodas at a drive-thru, and right as the cashier handed them their drinks, the driver threw the oversized containers back through the window. All you heard was the scream, she must have gotten soaked, followed by the crazy laughter of the two guys in the car as it sped away.

I remember laughing so hard at that video, the insane kind of funny that, looking back now, I’d never laugh, I’d never let myself. It’s too mean. I’d feel automatically too bad for that woman, she probably hates her job, or maybe she doesn’t hate her job, maybe it’s just me, I hate my job and I assume everybody else hates their job also. Maybe she’s happy. But she’s working the window at the drive through, she gets out the XL cups, fills them all up.

And then what does her boss say? The manager hears the spill, he looks up and the window-girl is doused in soda, there’s a mess everywhere. Did the computer get wet? What about the register? Did the soda make it to the cash? It’s everywhere. She feels bad, like even though everyone says they believe her, she’s worried some of them might suspect she’s making it all up. Because seriously, who would do something like this? And why?

But back when I was seventeen, when I finally had a car, independence, those were things I wasn’t focusing on, the who, the why. My whole world was all of the sudden open and new, I got such a crazy thrill out of anything I hadn’t been exposed to before. And this act summed up everything that I wanted in life at that moment, the ability to look around at the most mundane of situations and still be thrown for a total loop, like nothing applies anymore, everything you thought you knew, forget it.

I think Rich might have suggested we try it out also, or maybe he didn’t directly suggest it, but he said something like, “We would never do something like that,” just something to say, but I took it as this personal challenge, I was like, “Well, I would do that,” not even thinking about how this was already escalating dangerously. “No way, you would never do that,” so now here I was, Rich had thrust all responsibility my way, now this was my joke, my prank, my wild act to either carry out or chicken out of.

So we went to Taco Bell. My euphoria had definitely dwindled down into something else, an anxiety, my heart was still racing but I could tell that there was a part of me I wasn’t willing to yet consciously acknowledge that told me this was a stupid idea. And again, I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to be thinking about anybody else besides myself. I was purely concerned with what if we get in trouble, what if my parents have to get involved?

And Rich, he was pretty nervous too, but it was a carefree worry, like settling in to watch a really scary movie. Sure, he’d be along for whatever ride this turned out to be, but at the end of the day, he could always shrug and be like, I don’t know why Rob threw those sodas. I had nothing to do with it.

I pulled up to the drive-thru, I ordered four extra large Baja Blast Mountain Dews, and as we turned the corner to the window, we both kind of giggled a little bit. It was happening. The sodas had been ordered. Maybe this would be easier than the mental struggle I was setting up for myself here. Maybe all I had to do was throw and drive, and then I could laugh and laugh and laugh.

But we pulled up, and it’s this big dude, he’s passing me the sodas, telling me how much they cost. I didn’t even look at Rich, I just took out a ten, gave it to the guy, took the change, and left. Rich started laughing, I guess I deserved it, I guess he had to make fun of me, I mean, I was the one behind the wheel.

And looking back, I have that whole justification, the putting myself in the other person’s shoes, the realization that people shouldn’t go around throwing sodas at each other. But I still cringe, I still get pissed, like why wasn’t I thinking? Why did I sit there and let Rich make fun of me for the rest of the night? Why didn’t he offer me even a dollar for one of those sodas? Man, I haven’t seen my old friend Rich in forever. I wonder what he’s up to right now.

No more free refills on soda

At the restaurant where I wait tables, management recently got rid of the soda fountain. Whereas before five dollars would get you unlimited Coke and Diet Coke, now five dollars gets you one twelve ounce bottle of soda. Whatever, I was all bent out of shape about it initially. I hated having to explain a stupid change in soda policy to every single table that I wound up serving.

bottled soda

“What is this?”

“We recently switched to bottled …”

“So no more free refills?”

“No. I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK. But I hate you. And I’m not tipping you. And I’m going to follow you home and egg your house. Asshole.”

OK, nobody actually said that last one to me, not explicitly. But I’d stand there and smile and bullshit about how, “We really just want to make sure you’re enjoying an optimal soda drinking experience,” and I could tell these people wanted me dead. They don’t care about quality. If you’re a Diet Coke drinker, you’re not in some sort of a quest for quality. It’s super popular, yeah, everybody drinks it, but come on, does anyone truly enjoy Diet Coke? What is that taste? It’s like a battery that’s been left out to rot out in some old socks for a decade before accidentally being dropped into a vat of Coke Classic.

I’m getting carried away. I realize that now. A couple of months have passed and our customers have since gotten used to no longer receiving unlimited, intravenous Coca-Cola, and so I don’t have to talk about it all that much anymore. But at the time, man was I pissed. I was so angry. I came right home after that first shift and wrote a whole blog post about how much I hate bottled soda, how much I hate my managers, how the restaurant industry is this giant scam.

I sat on it for a couple of weeks, I always sit on my writing for a couple of weeks, and it’s a good thing too. Because I reread my diatribe against the soda policy and I scratched my head, like, huh, I was getting all bent out of shape over this? Over Diet Coke? Come on. That’s lame.

Although I am pissed off that I don’t get to drink free soda anymore. That used to be a really minor perk of working where I work. Every five minutes or so I’d fill up a huge glass of seltzer and I’d pound it down, enjoying that crazy sensation of those bubbles trying to go every which way, up my nose, down my throat. I’d close the back of my throat and squint my eyes really hard, because you know, just try chugging any carbonated beverage, that’s no joke. But it would pass and I’d feel instantly refreshed and recharged.

Now I can’t do that anymore. Before I had a perk. Now, there’s no perk. And I’m not being dramatic. I tried chugging a glass of plain water, and I almost quit right there. One, it’s boring. There’s absolutely nothing going on with a glass of plain water. Two, there is no two. It’s just one, water is boring. No bubbles, no fun.

I also tried switching to unsweetened iced tea, and that worked for about two hours. I’d fill up a glass, squeeze a lemon, and I’d get that refreshment, I liked the added caffeine kick. But you ever try downing more than two large glasses of unsweetened iced tea in a short time? Man, it’s like I boarded an express train to upset-stomach central. I had to sit down. I thought I caught some sort of a virus.

Finally, I’d like to end with a little anecdote. So we have bottles of soda, which means tons of empty bottles that we’re throwing straight in the trash. I can’t believe restaurants can get away without recycling that much plastic. I think that if I tried that in my house, the city would give me a fine. Anyway, this one waiter started collecting all of the soda caps.

I was like, hey man, what are you doing? And he was like, “Oh, well, you see these codes under the caps? If you type them into the Coca-Cola web site, they’ll donate .0001 cents to the charity of your choice.”

I was like, wow, thanks, I guess. But what I was really thinking was, Coke, you’re willing to donate all of this money to charity, but only if some random person gets on his or her computer and types out a long string of nonsense onto the Internet? Don’t be an asshole, Coca-Cola. Either donate to charity or don’t donate to charity. Don’t condition you’re philanthropy on whether or not you can get complete strangers to sit at their computers and do a bunch of mindless, unproductive busy-work.

Get on you knees and grovel before the lords of soda

I just went to see a movie. All of the employees at the theater were wearing t-shirts about choice and personal liberty, all decorated with slogans about how New York is a city of freedom. Then, when I sat down in my seat to be force fed all of those nonsense commercials that play before the movie starts, it was a lot of the same deal, don’t let anyone take away your freedom, blah blah blah. Normally I’d just zone out, but in a movie theater, I’m actually kind of forced to sit and pay attention to what’s playing in front of me. And what was playing in front of me? I realized that this wasn’t just any freedom or liberty we were talking about, this was about soda.

New York made headlines a couple of months ago after the mayor introduced a measure banning really big sodas at movie theaters and restaurants. And so this must have been part of the corporate backlash. Whatever, I think Mike Bloomberg is a dick, but not because of this soda issue. There have been a lot of professional opinions about soda drinking since the Mayor passed his law, and most of them say that people will always automatically go for the default option, in soda’s case, it’s always a large.

A large isn’t even really large. It’s gigantic. And it’s what everybody gets. Have you ever tried to buy a small soda? First of all, it’s only usually around three to four cents cheaper. And you order the small soda and the cashier immediately tries to stop you, gives you that don’t-be-so-cheap look and says, “Come on, you sure you don’t want a large? It’s only three cents more!” Of course you’re going to get the large. One time I insisted on the small, the cashier had to go back to some storeroom to see if they actually kept any small cups in house. She found one, and it was still bigger than any cup I have in my house.

Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone had giant glasses in their houses? You could buy a two liter bottle of Coke and pour the whole thing right into one of those cups. It’s not fair. Only at shitty restaurants and movie theaters is it OK to hold a cup that you literally can’t carry without using both hands. That’s not normal. That’s not how normal people eat and drink in their houses.

Which is why I get so pissed off when I go to see a movie and I’m bombarded by a political campaign about soda. Yeah, it’s about freedom, that’s it. It’s about, um, choice. Right, yeah choice. Who’s financing this counter-campaign? Why is it only at the movies that I’m seeing this nonsense?

Because you go to the movies and you have to get a snack. And you can’t bring in snacks from outside the movie theater. So you wait on line where the employees are making like three dollars an hour, and if I were making three dollars an hour, I’d be working even slower than they are. And by the time you finally get to the cashier, you just want some popcorn and a Coke. There’s no prices listed. There are never any prices listed. You just know that it’s going to be ridiculously expensive.

Popcorn and a Coke? Fifteen bucks. Awesome. Thanks for the popcorn and soda. I know it cost you like fifteen cents to produce this nutritionally hollow garbage. Fifteen bucks. Whatever, at least it’s gigantic. At least it’s so big that I’m probably not going to be able to finish it. And even if I do finish it, I can always get up in the middle of the movie and waste fifteen more minutes waiting on that line again for a free refill.

And that’s really the only way that these opportunist theaters can get away with charging ridiculously high prices for large cups of sugar water and bags of popped chicken feed. Because it’s so big. The word value just automatically pops in your head. Like when you go to Costco. Big. Value.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you ordered a large soda at a movie theater, then they handed you a sixteen-ounce cup, and then still tried to charge you ten bucks? The price would have to come down. And that’s what this whole campaign is about. Coke and Pepsi and AMC theaters don’t care about choice, or freedom, or liberty. They’re pissed off that a Mayor of a large city is trying to stop them from ripping everybody off. All they care about is taking your money, selling you a product that’s basically toxic in such large quantities, and not having to be held accountable for it. And when government threatens this normalized fleecing, they get all pissed and put together a campaign, try to rally up support amongst the people they are robbing.

I don’t get it. If you’re going to sell me a giant Coke, don’t take my money and then ask for help and support overturning a governmental proposal that would limit you from taking even more of my money. You should have collection boxes on the way out, asking your customers for donations. Please, give us even more money. Would you like to donate a dollar for cancer with your popcorn purchase? Screw you. You donate a dollar, because I just gave you upwards of thirty bucks on a movie and snacks. Don’t try to guilt me into giving up even more. Absolutely shameless. Does anybody ever go to the movies, spend thirty bucks, and then say to themselves, wow, that was totally worth it. Money well spent. I can’t imagine having a family, like two or three kids. That’s like a whole day’s work, down the drain.

Freedom. Give me a break, do I look stupid? How about hiring some more employees for the snack lines so I don’t have to wait around like an idiot? How about offering some better snacks? How about selling beer or cocktails. How about cleaning the floors once in a while so it’s not so goddamn sticky every single time. How much more money do you want from me just so I can see a movie and have some snacks?

Let me tell you the most interesting story, about soda

I love soda. Even though I don’t really drink it that much anymore, soda has played a very significant role in my life. Growing up, we always had two-liter bottles of Coke and Sprite on the kitchen table. It’s what we all drank with every meal, or in between meals whenever we were thirsty. If we had McDonald’s or Burger King for dinner, my parents always let me Super Size my meal. The rule was, as long as I finished everything that I had ordered, I could get anything I wanted. It was some sort of lesson about waste, I don’t know. So there was never any objection to letting me consume a small garbage pail sized cup filled with carbonated sugar water. And I always finished, because soda is delicious.

Soda was so central to our family that it was a huge deal if we didn’t have any. There were two or three years when we all gave it up for Lent. I know it’s what the Lord wanted, but it was torture. I especially remember one year, I was in second grade, and Pepsi released Crystal Pepsi right in the middle of our soda fast. Finally, a soda for my generation, but all I could do was sulk around at school, listening to all the other kids talk about how awesome it was. That Easter, when we were released from Lent’s crazy prohibition, the Easter bunny brought us a lot of it, and I remember sitting outside of our house just chugging as much of it as I could, trying desperately to make up for weeks of misery and deprivation. Looking back, it was kind of a weird soda. It must not have been that good, because I don’t have any other memories of it besides from that one day. And it got discontinued pretty soon afterwards. My family always drank Coke anyway.

One time we all got Wendy’s for dinner, and me being the asshole oldest brother, I pushed the plastic “diet” button on the lid of one of my brother’s soda, and then I told him that mom had accidentally ordered him diet. I teased him until he was crying. My mom ordered me to stop, so I did, but I while I said out loud that it was a regular Coke, I was all the while looking at him in the eye with a smirk that communicated nonverbally, “Hey, mom’s only making me say that it’s regular. It’s totally diet.” He flipped out and refused to finish his dinner, so I finished it for him, including his regular Coke.

When I went away to school, I used to visit Costco maybe once a month and buy as many bulk packs of canned Coke that would fit under my bed. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would drink at least eight a day. Towards the end of college, I had a pretty serious affair with Arizona Green Tea, which isn’t technically soda but, chemically speaking, I don’t think there’s much of a difference. I found that the absence of carbonation made Arizona easier to chug, and therefore consume more of, in a single day. Also, all of the bodegas around school sold it in these giant cans for ninety-nine cents, and so instead of having to make a trip to an actual grocery store for soda, I could satisfy my craving at any hour of the day, right outside of campus.

Like I said, I really don’t drink too much soda anymore (I’ve since switched to beer, which is basically soda for adults) but there are certain occasions where I always get one. Whenever I’m at a Mexican place I’ll get a bottle of Mexican Coke, because everyone says it tastes better with the real sugar, and everyone can’t be wrong, right? (In this case, everyone is totally right.) Also, whenever I’m buying hot dogs off the street, I always get a can of grape soda. There’s just something about the hot dog-sauerkraut-mustard-Dimetapp combination that I find irresistible. I’ve never seen grape soda sold anywhere else.

My friend Ben told me about a McDonald’s by his place that has this futuristic computer controlled Coke machine with over a hundred different soda flavors. Every time he tells me about it I get so pissed, first because I haven’t tried it yet, but second because I don’t think they’ve yet introduced these dream machines for home installation, and I know that when I finally do get to try it, I’m going to be totally addicted.

One day I’m going to make a pilgrimage to Atlanta to visit the Coke museum (but that’s it – airport, Coke Museum, airport, and straight back to New York) where they allegedly have this whole wall of fountain drinks offering every single Coke product that’s ever existed on this or any other planet. I’m going to bring a six-gallon jug and I’m going to fill it up with Surge.

I’m pretty sure that, in the Bible, Jesus had actually turned all of that water into soda. But soda hadn’t yet been invented, so nobody knew what to call it. When they finally wrote down the story generations after his death, it was incorrectly described as wine.