I did some traveling this month and was reminded that the entire world has been carved into territories by two major soft-drink companies.
In James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart’s old pictures like “The Roaring Twenties,” bootleggers would swagger into a Prohibition-era speakeasy and browbeat the owner into taking their booze instead of the booze sold by a rival gangster.
If the owner refused, he was threatened or beaten until he switched brands. A week or so later the rival bootleggers would come in and the owner was again threatened, etc. It was tough to be a barman back then.
Nowadays, the two titans of the soft-drink industry behave in a more sophisticated fashion, but the result is similar: they have arranged our world so that airlines, restaurants, hotel chains, even whole islands stock one company’s product but not the other.
This is hard on those of us who have fallen victim to the lure of one of their drinks, because the two brands taste different.
Most cola aficionados prefer one to the other. I’ll go further; most of us are addicted to one and detest the other.
I, for instance, drink what I’ll call “Diet This” so often that it’s a form of sickness, but I dislike “Diet That.” The trouble is, at most restaurants and on many long flights, they don’t have Diet This.
I have asked for Diet This so often, only to be told I’ll have to drink Diet That if I want Diet Anything, that the other day I finally fought back.
I was in a restaurant with family. The waitress came to take drink orders. I asked, as always, for Diet This.
“Sorry,” she said, “we only have Diet That.”
“Ha-HA!” I responded, producing a can of Diet This from my coat pocket.
She flinched, but she wasn’t mad. She understood that it wasn’t her I was defying, it was two companies which close off half the earth to me.
I’m an American, by God — a member of the greatest consumer nation in human history. I’m not surrendering my freedom of drink just because the boys who make the stuff don’t consider one world big enough for the both of them.
When Cagney and Bogart played bootleggers they always came to a bad end as a reminder that such behavior wasn’t acceptable. You can’t punish a huge corporation so easily, but you can strike a blow for freedom by bringing your own.
Patti Jo suggests boycotting both brands, but she doesn’t understand consumerism. Or addiction.