On the way home yesterday I stopped at a Ricky’s Pancake Hut for a cheeseburger, fries and Coke. It’s not what I usually order, but for a short while I wanted to pretend I was living inside an Archie comic—don’t we all feel like that at some time or other? When my food arrived, the Coke glass had a slogan on the side in cheerful fake-1950s lettering:
Coca-Cola Free Will!
I thought to myself, Wow, it’s great that Coca-Cola is now sponsoring independent thinking at the most grassroots of levels. Maybe global corporations aren’t evil at all. Maybe they represent the future of knowledge and the transmission of culture to future civilizations. Maybe I’ve been too hard on them all these years!
I looked more closely at the glass, and realized it didn’t actually say Free Will!, but rather, Free Fill! I asked the waitress what that meant, and she said I could drink as much Coke as I wanted on that one drink order.
I told John Doe, who had an interesting thought. “I used to yearn for Coke when I was growing up in the lesbian commune. And I yearned to try Pepsi as well. I thought that being a cola virgin was a great opportunity to offer the definitive taste test. So I snuck out and walked to the bait shop, which was maybe three miles from home, and bought a Coke. They didn’t have Pepsi, so I brought the Coke home and hid it in the backyard beneath a stump beside the communal talking circle, and the next week I was able to hitch into town, and I found a Pepsi and brought it home. I snuck out into a birch glade, opened them up and had this big woo moment when I tasted them.”
“And?” We were all curious to find out which was better.
“They both tasted like crap.”
“But wasn’t one better than the other?”
“Does cat shit taste better than dog shit? The weird thing was that neither of them tasted as sweet as I’d anticipated. So that afternoon, when my mother was going into town to do her monthly ‘Look, I don’t shave my armpits’ challenge to the locals, I went along and snuck into a diner and stole sugar and NutraSweet packets. When we got home, I took two glasses and a spoon into the glade and added sugar to what was left of the two colas.”
“The weird thing is, nothing happened.”
“It doesn’t matter how much sugar or aspartame you add to a Coke or Pepsi, it can’t get any sweeter than it already is. That’s their secret formula. It’s not some secret ingredient—which, by the way, would have to be registered with federal food and drug administrations, so let’s scotch that little urban legend about Secret Ingredient x7—it’s that their beverages are already supersaturated with sweeteners.”