The following story is one which I was going to make into bigger, shinier, post, but then I A) got super busy with work, and B) had a personal thing which just made me sad and a little self-hatey. So here it is, hopefully with funny enough words that you don't throw tomatoes at me.
A few weeks ago Kane and I took a weekend "adult" trip to Helen, GA while tiny human spent time with my parents and sister. Helen is this little Bavarian oasis in the middle of northern Georgia. But wursts, spaetzle, and lederhosen are not the focus of this story. No, this tale revolves around that most elusive of tokens, the MacGuffin that is a Coke Zero.
While Kane and I were seeing the sights, I was struck by the desire for a cool, refreshing beverage, a thirst which desperately needed to be quenched. And what would save me from a mildly annoying sense of thirst? Only a Coke Zero. We passed a shop which was selling bottles for $2, but my thrift said "No! Just wait until you get back to the hotel; you can get the same bottle for $1.25" I felt smart and economical. Little did I know how I would come to regret that supposed $.75 savings (side comment: I wish I had a key for the "cent" symbol. We have the $, why not the "c" + "|". Anyway).
We arrive back at our hotel, and I am thoroughly parched. We trek to the vending machine. I insert my dollar, early anticipating the refreshing calorie-free pleasure I'm about to experience. I go to insert the next dollar...and nothing. It doesn't even have the decency to do the 'spit the dollar out over and over again so you keep having to flatten it until it's crisper than when it came out of the mint' thing, which at least gives you a little hope. No, it just flat out refuses to acknowledge my offer unto the keeper of the liquid refreshment. Suddenly, ingenuity strikes me! Many vending machines, when you push the "gimme my money back, yo" button, return said money in coins. I will push the coin return, get quarters back, and use one of those with the dollar it's ignoring to get my delicious beverage. Brilliant! Except...the machine has taken my dollar hostage and will not negotiate terms for it's release.
Kane goes to the front office and they give us a dollar to offset the abducted one. Now...I will admit my next action was foolish, but the thirst was clearly affecting my thought processes. But...I decide that since I now have both a dollar and a quarter, I will surely be able to trick the soda beast into giving up its treasure. I insert the dollar, then go for the quarter...which spits back out the return slot. I try again, same result, but this time it falls under the machine. While retrieving it, I discover 2 other quarters left behind, possibly the last evidence of previous adventurers. I decide to give up on this machine, which of course now has two of my dollars.
Ah, but all is not lost! This hotel has several floors, all of which proclaim "vending". Why didn't I think of this before? Well, probably because there were stairs, and I am lazy. I dash to the next floor, empowered by the knowledge that my quest surely soon be fruitful. I crest over the top of the stairs, and what visage is revealed to me? A Pepsi machine. It's Georgia...and there's a Pepsi machine. I silently curse the taunting tricks of a cruel fate. I trudge dejectedly back to the room, fearful the sweet-tart object of my desire will go unfulfilled. But then! Out of the corner of my eye, I see my change. The "suites" area of the hotel possesses a Coke machine! I traverse the parking lot - feeling my reserves empty in the hot Georgia sun. I cautiously feed in my dollar. It accepts. Then my quarter...it takes that too! I'm going to get my drink. I select the Coke Zero...and the machine dashes my hopes in a single second. "SOLD OUT" it flashes at me...mocking me with every letter that scrolls across. It at least gives me my money back, softening the blow.
What can I do? At this point, the need, and it has become a need, for my quest to end in success has become all encompassing. I must possess a Coke Zero, or my world will never be right again. I decide to accept defeat, and walk meekly back to the shop, give them my $2, and hope they can't smell the failure surely emanating from my very core. I firm up my resolve, and begin the journey.
As I leave, I see it. The last bastion of hope. There is a Wendy's across from the hotel. My saving grace. I swagger, and it was a swagger, into the building, knowing soon I will have won my battle. I'm waiting in line to order, only a woman who had very particular lettuce desires standing between me and my boon. I glance at the menu, and my heart sinks. Wendy's does not serve Coke Zero. They serve Diet Coke. Coke Zero != (that's 'not equal' for any non-CS types) Diet Coke. One is calorie-free Coke magic. The other tastes like robot pee. I turn, about to make a run for the original shop, willing to give them even more than $2 just to not feel like I failed. But it's too late...the cashier summons me. It is here I will give the fight up. In that moment, the defeat overtakes me. Thoughts of soda are gone...I just need to soothe my beaten soul. So I do what anyone would do in my situation.
I order a frosty and fries, march back to our hotel, and sit on our balcony shame-eating frosty-coated french fries while relaxing by the river.
I sent this story to this blog's fabulous co-writer Stephani, and she responded that it was "the greatest story about America [she] had ever heard." I'm not sure how to feel about that. All I do know every time I've had a Coke Zero since then, it's always tasted just a little sweeter, and I give it just a little more appreciation.