If only turkey came in cold, perspiring cans

Posted by jdg | Friday, March 28, 2008

Stage One: preparation. For this you will need: one house which you will not leave; one macchinetta; espresso beans, three bags of; ibuprofen, one bottle of; vitamins; green tea, 36 bags of; Gerolsteiner, fifteen bottles of; San Pellegrino, ten bottles of; pornography; four buckets for urine, one for feces, and one for vomitus; one television.

And now I'm ready. All I need is one final 2-Liter to soothe the pain while the pornography takes effect.

* * * * *

I used to be able to drink Diet Coke™ responsibly, just like anyone else. I might have ordered one in a restaurant, say, even if I knew there wouldn't be free refills, or even if there were free refills but I couldn't be sure the server would pay proper attention to the sound of crushed ice sliding back down to the bottom of my glass after I'd drained it. I might have leisurely sipped one can over the course of a whole meal. I might have burped a bit afterward, and been completely satisfied. I might have bought a 12-pack that would last a week.

But that all changed when my old law firm rigged the soda machines to give out free soda. Free soda? Who had ever heard of such a thing? It was part of the top brass's effort to get the firm on Fortune 500's Best Places to Work list, you know, throwing us a bone here and there. It was good in theory, but the tragedy of the commons left the soda machine empty just a few hours after it was refilled. This happened during that whole anti-carb craze of 2004. So not only was it free, it was carb free. Our sedentary asses didn't need to feel guilty about it. Secretaries would hoard twelve cold cans under their desks. Mobs of paralegals and mail clerks would stalk two paces behind the guy whose job it was to restock the machine. Lawyers paid six-figure salaries fought like wolves over the last free can in the machine. Paranoia reigned. No one trusted anyone else. I was drinking six, seven cans a day, constructing 1:8 scale replicas of Mayan temples next to my desk out of Diet Coke™ cans. It was chaos.

I'd made it through college, law school, and a few years at a big firm without reliance on caffeine. I'd never even tried coffee. But parenthood put an end to that nonsense. These days it takes a triple espresso just to get my IQ into the triple digits. But I'm still drinking the soda, too. Coke™ or Pepsi™ I don't really care, so long as its cold, caffeinated, carbonated, caramel-colored, and calorie free. If I can't find any in the fridge, sometimes I drive the streets of Detroit at night, looking for a place to pick up a 2-Liter on sale. If they don't have Diet Coke™ or Diet Pepsi™ I might buy Faygo™. At that point I'm desperate: nothing matters so long as I can get back home and deliver a bubbly, acidic shot of aspartame, caffeine and phosphorus into my bloodstream. I hand over the two dollars, the cap comes off with a hiss, and I can hear the soda sizzling inside. I take a sip, my pupils dilate, the Co2 tickles the back of my throat, the sip slides down my esophagus, breaking down into metabolites in my stomach and liver, spreading to my heart, my brains, my bones. "Ahhhhhh."

"You drink more diet soda than Posh Spice," my wife tells me. I look it up. It's true. And she drinks diet soda instead of water because she "doesn't like the way water tastes."

"Well, if you want me to stop, I hope you like chubby husbands."

"According to a new study," she says, "Diet soda actually makes your body consume more calories in the end."

"According to a new study, you're a pain in my ass."

"Did you know Donald Rumsfeld was the one responsible for pushing aspartame-based artificial sweeteners through the FDA approval process without the appropriate testing back in the eighties, and he received a $12 million bonus from the company who developed it (he'd been its president)."

"Is that true?" I ask.

"Yeah, and you know how well he thought out the whole Iraq War."

I think she's afraid that there's an aspartame-flavored tumor the size of an avocado floating around somewhere in my innards, or that suddenly my bones are going to turn to wobbly. I'd like to think her fear is altruistic, that she actually cares about my health. But really I think she can't handle the idea of not having me around to help deal with one of these alternatingly-screaming children.

So I'm off the diet soda. I'm not even allowed to drink any Arizona Diet Green Tea With Ginseng™. "But can't it be my methadone for a couple weeks?" I ask.

She appeals to my weakness: "Those things cost a dollar each, so multiply that by the three you'd drink every day, now that's almost fifty dollars you'll save by just drinking water. Imagine all the crap you could by at Value World for fifty dollars."

God bless my wife. I'm going to need her during these trying times.