Tag Archives: Soda

Yes all Surge

I love Mountain Dew. It’s one of my favorite drinks. But it’s nothing compared to Surge. I remember when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, we didn’t have any Internet, so I have no idea how any of us heard about anything in advance, but we all knew that Surge was coming. For a while, the looming arrival of Surge was all that anybody ever talked about. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when.


And I remember my family was upstate one summer on vacation. There was a soda machine. It had Surge. And this was a first sighting. Surge wouldn’t make it downstate for another month or so. The only problem was, I was a little kid, I didn’t have any money, and so I had to beg my parents for a dollar so that I could try Surge.

I knew that I had to play it cool, that if I betrayed just how excited I was, then all of my little brothers and sisters would get involved, and when my mom would ask what I needed the dollar for, she’d probably give it to me, but only on the condition that I share it with everybody. And I don’t know if any older siblings can relate, but sharing with your little brothers and sisters is the worst. Especially the really little ones who don’t know how to drink out of a twenty ounce bottle yet, it’s like one hundred percent backwash, so that sucks.

I somehow got the dollar, and I remember that first sip of Surge. It was delicious. That soda was one of the defining moments of my life. For a solid five years or so, I only have memories that revolve around me drinking Surge. Everything else has just kind of faded away into the not-so-interesting background of things not worth remembering.

And ever since Surge was discontinued, I’ve been in a funk. I try to tell people what’s wrong with my life, why I’m always so low, and they always try convincing me to chalk it up to the struggles of growing up and not having a purpose or some other nonsense. But while everyone has a void inside that they have to deal with, you know, that quiet desperation that Thoreau was talking about, I knew what mine was about. It was about Surge. I’m sure if Thoreau had Surge, he wouldn’t have been such a mope.

But now it’s coming back. The Internet brought Surge back. I just ordered mine on Amazon. I can’t wait to drink it. I’m going to feel alive again, finally. I really don’t have too much more to say. They’re saying that my delivery is going to be a couple of weeks due to high demand, but I’ve waited all of these years, so I guess a little more time won’t kill me. And by the way, all of that bullshit about yellow number five lowering your sperm count was a bunch of baloney.

I hope nobody is too attached to Mountain Dew, because once Surge surges back to grocery stores, I don’t see any market for Dew. Well, I guess Baja Blast is pretty delicious, so that can stay. But aside from the occasional trip to Taco Bell, it’s going to be all Surge from here on out.


When people say “pop” instead of soda

I love it when people say “pop” instead of “soda.” I start laughing so hard. “Hahaha!” I’ll interrupt whoever happens to be talking, “You said pop!” and I’ll just totally take over the conversation, which is a bad habit, I’m not trying to brag here or anything, but it’s like I can’t help it. Someone says “pop” and that’s it, game over, you might as well leave, because that’s all I’m going to talk about until we part ways. And even then, the next time we run into each other, even if it’s like months later, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to bring it up right away, the last time we were together, “Remember when you said ‘pop’?” And I’ll just laugh and laugh.


Which, again, it’s not cool, I’m being a huge dick, I get it. But I can’t stop it. I tried really hard to keep it in last time I was up in Buffalo. I was really hungry and I went to a diner, and I just sat there and prayed, I said, God, please make it so the waitress doesn’t say pop. But that was my first mistake, because just that thought process alone got me going. I imagined God in my head listening to my prayers, and in my imagination, he started laughing, he was like, “Ha, my child, you said ‘pop.'” And so I already felt it bubbling up from inside, the giggles.

When the waitress came over, I asked for a Coke, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this beforehand, but I really should have just had iced tea or water, something, anything besides soda. But like I said, that idea hadn’t occurred to me at the time, I just said it, “I’ll have a Coke, please,” and then I held my breath, hoping that the waitress wouldn’t say anything to get me going.

She just said, “You got it,” and so I let out a sigh of relief. But when she came back with my drink, she caught me by surprise, I mean, at my restaurant, we have a rule that you’re not supposed to announce whatever it is that you’re serving. Does that make sense? Like, if you order a hamburger, a lot of people’s natural reaction when serving food is to narrate it, like, “Here’s your hamburger,” as it’s getting placed in front of you. Obviously it’s a hamburger.

But yeah, just because that’s how they do it in my restaurant doesn’t mean that that’s how they do it everywhere, and I should have been ready for it, I should have had my hands over my ears, so I could have at least tried to muffle out the sound of her putting that Coke in front of my face, saying, “Here’s your pop.” Because that’s how it went down, and I just totally lost it.

I tried to hold it in, I really did, but this only made it worse, because my efforts in restraining the laughter only succeeded for about half a second, and the noise that I made as the “haha” escaped from my throat, that’s exactly what it sounded like, like an escape, like I was holding it back, but it just, bam, it just knocked over completely the flimsy walls that I had hastily erected in a pathetic attempt at not letting that laugh out.

“Is everything OK?” she asked me, and come on, everything was fine, I was the one that had the problem here. I wish I could have just made it out to be like something was wrong with me, because really, there actually was something wrong with me. I had this uncontrollable urge to laugh at something that, definitely in Buffalo anyway, isn’t funny at all.

“Yes, everything’s …” and again, I couldn’t really think of anything to say. Now I can look back and say to myself, Rob, you should have said that you were laughing about a joke that your friend made last week, or you could have turned it into a cough or something, but none of that seemed natural in the moment, I was clearly laughing, and I just said, “I’m really sorry, it’s just that, you know, you said ‘pop,’ and you know …”

“Yeah, that’s what we call it up here, pop.” And she stormed away, clearly insulted. Worse, I was still laughing. I couldn’t stop it. As I was trying to explain myself, I kept getting my words caught up over my laughter, still beating me in my efforts to, if not contain it totally, to at least reign it in somewhat. But no, I was practically spitting on her.

Because come on, “pop,” that’s crazy, right? I’m sorry, people from upstate, the Great Lakes, Canada, I hope you don’t think I’m too much of an asshole. But that’s just so funny. It’s like that one time I went to Philadelphia and they called my hero a “hoagie.” That deli guy actually kicked me out of his store. I thought he was going to chase me out, try to punch me in the face or something.

Y’all got Dr. Pepper?

I always think it’s funny when people from Texas visit New York and try to order Dr. Pepper everywhere they go. This isn’t something that I picked up on right away. It’s only after years of working at restaurants in the city, thinking it really weird that every once in a while I’d get those out-of-towners who asked me for a Dr. Pepper, as if it was just the most natural thing in the world, giving me looks of confusion when I’d respond, “Sorry, we don’t have Dr. Pepper.”


Dr. Pepper exists up here, but it’s not like you’re ever going to find it outside of a grocery store or a Seven-Eleven. It’s just Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if restaurants had more of a soda selection, but I don’t sit down at random restaurants and start asking for cream soda or something equally obscure.

You travel away from home, maybe you don’t know. I certainly don’t know. I worked at this touristy place for a few years and I was initially really confused when Southerners started asking me, “Ya’ll got sweet tea?” I’d be like, “Well, we have iced tea.” I didn’t know there was a difference. But I guess if you add sugar to iced tea, you call it sweet tea, and everybody just kind of expects it.

Whatever, it’s all just funny regional differences. But again, it wasn’t until I actually met some Texans that I eventually figured out that it’s a Texas thing, Dr. Pepper, that apparently this stuff is more popular than Coke is in the rest of the country. Which is crazy, to think that there’s an alternate reality out there, where everybody speaks the same language, right, but Coke isn’t number one, Dr. Pepper is.

I like Dr. Pepper. I can’t tell you exactly what it tastes like, but then again, I can’t really tell you what Coke tastes like either. But they definitely taste different. Maybe I’d like it if we switched to Dr. Pepper. Coke is great and everything, but I don’t know, I feel like a lifetime of cola has sort of dampened my ability to appreciate it anymore. It doesn’t taste like anything anymore, not really, it’s just sweet.

One time recently I had this couple sit down at one of my tables at the restaurant. The guy had this big beard and when I asked him what he wanted to drink, he asked for a Dr. Pepper is that Texas drawl. And I smiled and I said, “Sorry pardner, you’re not in Texas anymore.” And he kind of just looked at me, and his girlfriend or wife or whatever just said, “That’s OK, he’ll have a Coke.”

And it sucked, because I wasn’t trying to be a dick or anything, I was just trying to be friendly. Like friendly funny. Like yeah, I’m making fun of you a little bit, but it’s all good-natured, nothing to get upset over. That’s what I was going for anyway, but I don’t know, every once in a while I’ll play it back in my head. Was I coming across as a jerk? Was it my intonation? Was it the whole “pardner” thing?

Whatever, there’s one thing that I can totally appreciate about Southerners and Texans. Not once have they every asked me for a Pepsi. At least we can all agree on that. Coke, fine. Dr. Pepper, yeah, I’d be willing to switch to Dr. Pepper. But Pepsi? Forget about it. Whenever someone asks me, “Is Pepsi OK?” I say, “No, Pepsi is not OK. Pepsi is never OK.” And usually that gets a laugh, but I’m not joking, I’m actually trying to be a little bit of a dick, if only to get the importance of my message across.

Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite

I hate it when you go out to a restaurant and all they have to drink is Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite. That’s all we serve at my restaurant. The royal triumvirate of boring sodas. It’s like I can just picture whoever started the place, they’re considering all of the locally selected ingredients for each carefully plated dish. And then right after they finish planning the menu, one of them says, “Oh wait, we forgot to go over beverages.”


The other guy goes, “What do you mean, like soda? Just get Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite.” And that’s it. It’s like there’s no imagination at all, not even the possibility that you might branch out even a step into the wider world of soft drinks.

And this isn’t anything against Coke. It’s great. I hate Diet Coke, but whatever, that’s not a fight I’m willing to pick, because people love Diet Coke, and so yeah, not my cup of tea. I do love Coke Classic. But I love cheeseburgers also. It doesn’t mean I want every meal to be a cheeseburger. Nor do I want every drink I have to be a Coke.

I just don’t get it, because there are so many more interesting sodas besides Coke and Sprite. How did we wind up as these two being the standard? It’s like ice cream, you’ve got vanilla and chocolate. Hot drinks, it’s coffee and tea. And for soda, you’ve got whatever flavor Coke is supposed to be and then lemon-lime.

You ever go to a restaurant and ask if they orange soda? Or Mountain Dew? You won’t even get a response right away. The waiter or waitress is just going to stare at you for a little while, to communicate as passive-aggressively as they can, are you kidding me? Are you seriously asking me if we have orange soda or Mountain Dew? Of course we don’t. Of course we only have Coke or Sprite. What the hell is your problem?

I know this because I’m a waiter, and I can’t stand it when people waste my time, “What kind of soft drinks do you have?” And what do I do? I don’t want to be a dick. I don’t want to be like, you’re an idiot, we only have Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite. But that’s all we have. Sure, I can mention unsweetened ice tea, I can throw in seltzer, but that’s it, everybody’s left deflated by the interaction. I don’t know what you were expecting.

But why is artificial orange flavor that much different than artificial lemon and lime flavor? Why is it socially acceptable to have a brown or a clear carbonated beverage in front of you at a restaurant while a green or a neon yellow one would make it look like you snuck out to Pizza Hut to order a soda to bring back to the table?

Cream soda, root beer, grape soda, Dr. Pepper, there are so many alternative soda flavors we could add to the standard restaurant drink menu to make everything more interesting. But no, you’re lucky if you go to a restaurant that has ginger ale.

Every restaurant by me, they proudly serve at least forty-five craft beers on tap. The wine gets its own telephone book sized menu. Bourbons, scotches, spirits, hold on, let me get the liquor manager to come over and give you a history lesson on single malts vs. blends. But soda? We’ve got Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite. It’s not fair. I love soda. I would love to have some variety when I feel like enjoying a sugary carbonated beverage.

I used to love fountain soda

I worked at this restaurant a few years ago that didn’t really try that hard to live up to the standards of good hygiene as outlined by the New York City Department of Health. When I first started working there, sure, it was an old building, and yeah, you’ve got to expect to put up with a certain amount of filth as a New York City resident, but some corners of the place represented more of an insect sanctuary than an actual establishment where people paid money to be served food.


But whatever, the money was decent enough that I was able to put the grossness out of my mind somewhat. And there were perks to working there, like free ice cream, free soda. I love drinking free soda from a soda fountain. I’ve always wanted my own personal soda fountain, ever since I was a freshman in high school, on the first day of class, I had this history teacher that told us there were a few water fountains located throughout the building that dispensed Arizona iced tea or Coca-Cola instead of water, and, being the naïve and gullible idiot fourteen year old that I was, I bought the lie completely. When I eventually found out that I had been fooled, I could never shake that insatiable thirst for an unlimited amount of free soft drink.

And even though I’ve yet to meet anybody with their own personal soda fountain, working at this restaurant was the closest that I’d ever come to having that dream realized. Regardless of the bad moods of certain customers, or how crazy the kitchen became during an especially chaotic dinner service, I’d always be able to sneak in ten seconds or so to fill up a Dixie cup with a mouthful of Mountain Dew, or root beer, or orange soda. (I never touched Pepsi, not even once. I’m a Coke man through and through.) That’s all I ever needed, really, not a whole serving, just enough for a satisfying mouthful.

That’s the problem with bottled soda, you have to drink the whole thing in one reasonably timed-out sitting. Unless you have access to your own soda fountain, of course, you’re not really able to get just a sip of soda, with the perfect amount of carbonation, at just the right temperature, whenever you feel like it.

But after a few weeks, people started looking at me funny every time I went in for a drink. “Don’t you guys like soda?” I’d ask nobody in particular, wondering if my coworkers were super health-conscious, or maybe diabetic. I just couldn’t figure out why, apart from serving it to the guests, I was the only one making any use out of our soda fountain.

Finally one day another waiter pulled me aside. He said, “Hey Rob, you must really like soda.” And I said, “Of course I like soda, who doesn’t?” But he continued, “No, it’s just that, you must really, really like soda to be drinking so much out of that machine. Don’t you ever think about why nobody else touches it?”

And yeah, like I had already said, I did wonder why nobody else was indulging in what I had considered one of the only benefits of being a full-time waiter at a pretty mediocre Manhattan tourist-trap. “I just figured that, I don’t know, you guys are all watching your weight?”

“Please,” he went on, “And you never notice the busboys dumping all of that bleach down the drain in the morning?” Yeah, now that he mentioned it, I guess I was at least partially aware of the bleach. But up until that moment, I’d never questioned it. “They put the bleach down because the pipes are all moldy and clogged up, but they won’t pay anybody to replace the system. You ever catch a whiff of that barnacle smell when the ice bucket gets low?”

But it got worse. “Come here,” he brought me over to my precious, precious soda fountain and winced as he lifted up the cover behind the Seven-Up label. Right underneath the surface of what looked like such an inviting piece of machinery was one of the grossest things I’d ever seen: dozens upon dozens of cockroaches, little medium-sized ones, frightened by the sudden exposure to light, running around in ribbons of brown as they made a ridiculous effort to slink back into the shadows.

“The syrup leaks. This machine is a piece of shit. There are roaches everywhere.”

And yeah, that did it for me. I’m sure that most other restaurants and fast-food places have to have better standards of cleanliness, but I’m not going to lie, it’s still a little hard to drink fountain soda. It’s one of my all-time happiest pleasures that’s been irrevocably ruined by that one motion, my coworker lifting back the curtain to reveal the disgusting innards of a poorly kept up soda machine. What a dump.