Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have a Nice, Cold Beverage

Progress is nice. Except when it slows things down.

One of my favorite things is a cold, refreshing soda pop. Of course, depending on where you are in the country you might call it a soda, or you might call it a pop, or you might call it a soda pop, or you might call it a fountain drink, or you might call it a fizzy drink, or you might call it a carbonated beverage. Whatever you happen to call it, I like it.

The way we get our soda pops has changed greatly over the years. I'm old enough (barely) to remember going to the soda fountain at the drug store. We'd sit up at the counter on one of the twirly stools and order our preferred drink. (I usually chose root beer or red cream soda.) The person behind the counter would put the cup (or mug!) under the magical machine, pull a lever, and the delectable beverage would flow. When the cup (or mug!) was full, they would place it on the counter in front of us for our consumption. It was a beautiful arrangement.

A new "old" soda fountain counter.
Most of those drug store counters are gone now, except for a select few of the old shops that are still open, and some new ones attempting to capitalize on the nostalgia of the old ones. And, how we get our beverages has changed, too.

I think it started with the gas stations and convenience stores. At some point, many years ago, someone decided that, instead of the person behind the counter filling all of the drinks, it would be okay for the general population to get their own beverages. This arrangement seemed to work, because it let the customer get whatever drink they wanted, and it freed up the person behind the counter so they could spend more time on their phone.

Before long, fast food restaurants also adopted the get-your-own-drink philosophy. And no one really complained. For the customer it meant unlimited refills! Also, you could mix flavors and choose how much (if any) ice you wanted. It was good news for beverage lovers.

And so it went for several years. There were no advancements in beverage dispersement, but no one seemed to care. But then, suddenly, a new innovation appeared. I first noticed it a couple of years ago when I ventured into a local Burger King. Instead of the usual soda machine with dispensers for six or eight different flavors, they had a machine with a single dispenser, but a seemingly unlimited variety of flavors from which to choose!

The machine is called "Coca Cola Freestyle."
This was exciting news! Simply by pushing the touch screen, almost any flavor of beverage is available. According to Wikipedia (which is correct at least 63% of the time) there are over 125 possible drink and flavor combinations.

At a nearby Wendy's, this man chooses between Coke, Diet Coke, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, Lime Coke, and, quite possibly, Guava Coke.
I like soda pop. I like different flavors. I really like these machines! I could think of absolutely no problem with these machines. In my mind they were perfect beverage dispensers. Until, one day, I experienced the problem first hand.

The Wife, the kids, and I went to a Wendy's during the lunch hour rush. Before we could order our food, we had to figure out which was the line to order the food and which was the line for the beverage machine. We ordered our food and we were given our cups to fill at the wonderful drink dispenser. That's when the trouble began.

There was one machine with only one dispenser. And there was a long line. When some people approached the machine, they didn't know how to use it. (A very confused little old lady, who probably still has a corded phone at home, was eventually helped by the impatient youngster behind her in line.)

And then there were the people who felt the need to browse. Despite the fact that they could see the dozen people in line behind them, some folks just couldn't quite decide on which flavor to choose.

So many choices! I need to consider each and every one very carefully.
The old soda machines had limited flavors, but they did have six or eight places from which soda was dispensed. Sometimes two or even three people could be getting beverages at the same time! Not so with these new machines. 

By the time I got drinks for myself and my family, my food was cold and not as enjoyable. (It's a proven fact: warm french fries are better than cold french fries.) At one point I was about ready to take my cup up to the counter and ask them to just get me root beer from the machine they have back there for the drive-thru.

And refills? Forget refills. No one wants to stand in line for fifteen minutes to get a refill.

So, the way we get our beverages has changed a lot over the years. These new soda machines are great, if you go out to eat during non-peak hours. Still, I think I prefer sitting on the twirly red stools at the soda fountain counter, waiting for someone to hand me my mug full of root beer. (With foam on the top.)

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