July 4, 1982.
Where were you when the soda giant Coca-Cola launched its devil beverage simply titled, “Diet Coke?” In the twenty-six plus years since that day, the diet drink has taken over every other soda in sales with the exception of Pepsi and of course, Coca-Cola. Diet Coke has changed its formula a few times, switching the amount of saccharin and aspartame it uses it the early years. Now, if you purchase a can or a bottle, you’ll get a product sweetened with aspartame, go to a fountain and they add a touch of saccharin to extend the shelf life. Yes, that saccharin. The saccharin that gives mice cancer. I choose to refer to the ingredient as “crazy juice.” Why? I believe Diet Coke drinkers are a breed of their own to begin with. However, those who gather in a public place and suck down the fountain variety are unknowingly taken control of by the beverage.
Last week, at the restaurant I serve at there were twelve followers at one table. Twelve ladies and gentlemen white knuckling their clear cool glasses with the addictive soft drink. I brought pitcher after pitcher to re-pour for them their narcotic of choice. Ever noticed that if you are sitting with a group of soda drinkers at a restaurant, the Diet Coke drinkers down seventeen times as much soda as those who choose the sugary stuff? When the server brings forth a pitcher, they quickly suck down the remaining ounces. They do this not because they are thirsty or to wash down the enormous bite of burger they just gnawed. They do it because they wish to consume as much Diet Coke as possible for two bucks.
Luckily, we serve Coke products and not Pepsi. If the situation were reversed, I would have many customers choose water with a slice of lemon in lieu of the rival sugar-free soda. Since we are talking about lemons, there’s usually one or two at the table that needs a lemon or maybe a lime. Regular Coke drinkers don’t do this. Regular Coke drinkers do not demand extra ice, no ice, an extra straw or to have an IV inserted by their server so they don’t have to stop eating to take a sip.
Before Diet Coke, there was Tab. Also, diet-Pepsi and Diet Rite (the choice of geriatrics). Tab was the most popular of the lot, wearing a cute pink outfit. Diet coke quickly diminished the sales of all three and has expanded to include caffeine-free, Splenda sweetened, Coke Zero, and is now found flavored with lemon, lime, cherry, and vanilla.
You are wondering why I am so harsh on the beverage. I don’t like it, though I will drink it if I am at one’s home who only stocks that in their fridge. I just find it funny that it seems to be the beverage of soda junkies. Yes, there’s people out there who down a case a day of every soda that is made, but there are just more who do so with Diet Coke.
I will end with a silly story. Last summer in the height of the soda season, an employee where I worked accidentally hooked up regular Coke to the diet spout. For two days we had hundreds of glasses gulped by die hard Diet Coke fans, not one spoke up. It was only caught by the next person who changed the syrup. I wouldn’t do that on purpose ever, I do understand that people with diabetes should not be fooled. I think I am going to pen a letter to Coca-Cola requesting that Diet Coke be replaced with the retired OK Soda. Sure, they won’t listen, but maybe I’ll get another letter.