I have a terrible addiction to Coke, the fizzy kind, not the powdery stuff. In fact, what I call Coke is anything that has bubbles and is referred to as soda or pop or cola by normal people. I love it, too much, in fact. For me, there really are only two kinds of soft drinks: Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew. It’s not that I won’t drink anything else, but if I have choices, those are my go-to soft drinks.
I have fond memories of going to the service station with my dad when I was a child. You would go in, smell the oil and grease – those were real service stations with mechanics – and there would be a rack with peanuts and a Coca-Cola or Pepsi cooler sitting on the floor. For a quarter, you could buy a bottle of the most wonderful beverage known to man. If you were really on your game, you could buy that bag of peanuts, take a couple of sips of your Coke and dump the peanuts in for a true treat.
Those were the days. Back then, there was no such thing as a convenience store, at least not in rural Colbert County. Back then a Coke, or whatever you wanted to call it, was a real treat. I didn’t get one every day, couldn’t, in fact. We didn’t have the money for such luxuries.
When I was older, I got a job working in Malone’s Supermarket on North Pike Road in Cherokee. I worked through high school and college in that store. It was a great place, and I got to work with good friends. I think the store had like four or five aisles in it, so this place was no mega-store, just a good old country grocery store. And we sold Coca-Cola in the 6.5-ounce bottles.
Those of you of a certain age will remember that particular soft drink. There was then, and there is now, no equal to it. I don’t know how they did it, but Coca-Cola packed more taste into that little bottle than in all the other sodas in the world. To this day, the best soft drink I have ever tasted came out of those little bottles. And, you know what, that little bottle of Coca-Cola was enough.
Today, you can’t find a real service station even with an internet search. There are convenience stores everywhere, filled with all kinds of goodies. Those 6.5-ounce Cokes of my youth wouldn’t stand a chance against the mega-sized soft drinks of today. You can’t find a regular sized bag of peanuts, either.
Everything is bigger. Not just a little bit bigger, but huge. Back when I worked at Malone’s, there were no double-size candy bars. You bought a Snickers or a Hershey and you got a candy bar. It was more than enough. Today, go into a convenience store and you will be hard-pressed to find anything that is regular-sized.
The candy bars are huge; double the size of the bars of my youth. Want a bag of chips? It will cost you three servings and about 500 calories. Peanuts, yep, supersized bags, and they will add between 350 and 600 calories to your day. Oh, and they have stuff like pizza – it isn’t great, but it is pizza – chicken wings, those lovely chicken tenders that call out to me every single time I get within a block of one of those places and, oh, the sodas.
Those 6.5-ouncers are nowhere to be found. For that matter, it’s getting harder to find a 12-ounce bottle or can, not that I bother to look very often. I head over to the soda fountain and grab that 44-ounce monster cup.
I am a sucker. I go for all that super-sized stuff. Guess what, I’m fat. Yep, I hate it, but I don’t hate it that much or I’d change. I weigh … Okay, not going there, but a whole lot more than when I was drinking those lovely little bottles of Coca-Cola. But I drink diet now, so it’s all good, right?
Not really. Studies have proven that diet soda triggers your body’s hunger response. Yep, that’s right, if you drink diet soda you feel hungrier, so go ahead and reach for that super-sized candy bar or that huge bag of chips because your body is going to be calling for it. Might as well cave now. It will save time later.
The end result of all this largeness is, in fact, largeness. Have y’all looked around lately? I’m not the only one too heavy these days. I reckon it would be a public service for someone to bring back those little bottles of Coke, not that anyone would notice. They would be lost in a sea of monsters.
Gary Cosby Jr. is photo editor of The Tuscaloosa News. Readers can email him at email@example.com.