Monday, October 13, 2008

The Mysteries of Soda Machines

I was at lunch at Quizno’s the other day and asked for water. The lady behind the counter handed me a Styrofoam cup and directed me to the self-serve soda machine. If you’re not American, that’s a three-foot wide selection of either Coca-Cola or Pepsi products from a machine that mixes syrup with carbonated water from different brightly-colored taps. Customers are on the honor system. Even if they sell you your self-serve drink in regular, large, extra large increments, it’s up to you to let them know that you decided to hit the machine for a refill. Most places don’t care, some occasionally post a “refill-charge”, and others just let you know that it’s all you can slurp.

While the stuff that comes out of the spouts emerges in different colors, I’m not convinced that the flavors are actually different. Would a blind taste test find Coca-Cola to be all that different from Root-beer, Sprite, or Orange Soda. It’s all cold, it’s carbonated, it’s really really sweet. The machines also have a habit of running out of syrup before they run out of carbonated water. Oh and there’s this weird business with the ice. I’m convinced those machines have settings where you either get a miniscule amount of ice or so much that you could personally end any concerns about global warming. In the end, you get something that resembles say Pepsi from a bottle or Pepsi from a can (I’m convinced that Pepsi in a bottle still tastes much better than the canned variety while Coke in a bottle doesn’t taste that different from Coke in a can) , but it’s not nearly as satisfying. After years of this, I’ve gotten to a point where I look at the color of the mixture coming out of the spout and usually have a pretty good idea of how far off the mix of syrup and carbonated will be from the bottled version.

So, I’m waiting to get water from the machine. I don’t much like doing this. They usually have a little button for water set in the lower corner of whatever the non-carbonated beverage (as in who would drink water when they can fill their intestines with sugary syrup?) happens to be, say pink lemonade or fruit punch. Most of the time there’s syrup residue in the mix line so you get something that vaguely pink instead of clear and you also pick up a hint of lemonade smell, not necessarily a bad thing if you like fake lemonade. Sometimes though, it smells and looks like very diluted cough medicine.

The woman in front of me was the width of the machine. The top of her head came up to the labels identifying the different concoctions on the soda machine. She fiddled with the Dr. Pepper dispenser (Pepsi products here) and it started spitting some sort of bubbly white fluid into her extra large Quizno’s cup.

Was this one of those people who puts the ice in first or does she wait until after she’s gotten her fluid of choice? I couldn’t tell, to be honest. This was, however, one of those people who sees someone waiting patiently at the soda machine and doesn’t care if you’re waiting- she wanted her god damned Doctor Pepper even if whatever was coming out of that spout was more like essence of Doctor Pepper. So I waited for her to fill a 36 ounce cup with intermittent splashes of tan bubbles. For those of you from other planets, Dr. Pepper is a dark caramel on the prune-juice side of cola-colored. This process took maybe a quarter of my allotted lunch break. I stood there all too patient, unwilling to say “What are you stupid, Lady? Taste the sludge at the bottom of your cup…it’s not going to taste like Dr. Pepper. It’s not even fake Mr. Pibb….It’s lightly colored syrup free carbonated water. It’s not going to get any better just because you fill up that giant cup of unneeded calories. I stood there and was getting angrier and angrier at this complete stranger, well we were about to share fluids of some sort but not in the sense the Center for Disease Control talks about it.

Finally, she took a taste….made a face, then slowly poured it out through the center grate of the machine which has a hole big enough for the ice cubes to fall through. Next, to my complete horror, she started the process over again…Surely the state of California must permit killing people for soda machine idiocy? Thankfully, she didn’t fill this cup to the top, but takes a taste at about a quarter of the way full, dumps, that out, then poured herself the slowest draught of Pepsi I’d ever seen. Who the hell takes five minutes to fill a cup from a soda machine? But…but, we still weren’t done. She then decided she needed a lid and a straw which were kept right next to the soda machine. How do you take thirty seconds to decide between a pile of identical paper-wrapped straws from Quizno’s.

I‘m pretty sure she saw me waiting and decided to make me suffer. She gave me this sidelong glance as she finall got out of the way. I must have some sort of “tell” like in poker only in this case it was with Dr. Pepper.

I came home and told Mrs. Chancelucky my story and she asked “Why didn’t you just ask her if you could quickly get your water? You didn’t have to yell at her or get mad? There’s more than two choices you know.”

I couldn’t answer her question. I was way too busy having this fantasy about “Soda” rage, second cousin of road rage. My pouring out like 48 ounces of orange soda over the unsuspecting woman’s head while she sat over her bag of chips, the large sub for just five dollars, and her carefully drawn draught of Pepsi. The only thing stopping me was my whispering top myself “What would Jared do?”

Just because the stock market lost 15 trillion dollars or whatever....I don't have to turn it into a demonstration of "trickle down" economics.



At 10/15/2008 10:37:00 PM, Blogger AHP said...

I can't stand when restaurants don't get the water, carbonation, syrup mix right. When I was young, I used to complain and the waiterress would offer to get me another glass. It didn't take me long to realize what the lady in front of you took a while to figure out.

At 10/16/2008 07:06:00 AM, Blogger BeckEye said...

I know that there's probably so much disgusting gunk inside soda machines, but there is nothing better than a fountain pop. I crave them frequently.

And yes, it is POP.

At 10/17/2008 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think some restauarants let it happen because that's when you start making serious money off the soda machine. The syrup is the expensive part and the thinner you can cut the syrup, the higher the margin.
I guess I'm pretty sensitive to it too.

For me it's bottled all the way. The only advantage of the fountain variety is that you don't have to see how much of the stuff you've actually had. I do remember when I was riding my bicycle a lot, I could walk into a 7-11 and get that thing the size of a bucket and actually drink it all. (on a riding day btw...not in normal life)

At 10/20/2008 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I like my pop in bottles thankyouverymuch. Ted's Montana Grill is about the only place I've come across that does it anymore. That's not to say I won't guzzle down the fountain stuff.

I wouldn't have thought of options either, Soda Rage is the real thing!

At 10/20/2008 04:54:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Soda Rage is not the "real thing", We're in the "Soda rage generation."
OF course, the Pepsi generation was like forty years ago, which drink's generation is it now?

At 3/01/2013 08:44:00 AM, Blogger Punk said...

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