Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A Stay of Execution

I've said in several places, I'm sure, that I have a serious Diet Coke addiction. Serious. I drink, at a minimum, a 12 pack of the stuff every day, and have for 25 years. And often I drink more than this. I've been named "The Diet Coke Cardinal" as one of my many (mostly unflattering) nicknames. I carry around one of those 64 oz. insulated mugs that loudly screams "gluttonous American!" and fill it up two or three times per day at a carefully and painstakingly chosen convenience store, one where the mix is not tainted by hideous, chlorinated city water or improper syrup proportion. I quickly become something of a store mascot, with the workers teasing me about their purchasing of Coca-Cola stock, etc.

Also, doing my part to ensure American hegemony in sending world culture to hell, I am almost physically unable to pass by any McDonald's, because their DC is head and shoulders above any other restaurant I've encountered, and lord know you can always find one nearby. (I try not to eat the food, but I just can't avoid the soda.) I think this is because, franchise-wide, they filter their water. Good water makes for good soda; and this enables the almost medicinal magic of DC to shine untarnished, slithering down the esophagus to work its miracles at the cellular level. (Sorry, but I just tend to bubble up rhapsodically!) Anyway, to my two or three visits per day to my favorite convenience store (stores, actually, since I scope them out in any town I visit and to which I expect to return) we can add a minimum of two trips daily thru the McDonald's drive-thru. Of course, my fridge is always well-stocked. Just in case. (My wife laments that any spontaneous photo taken within a two block radius of our house is almost certain to have a container of Diet Coke somewhere in the photo.)

Mostly this habit has arisen because I have something of a compulsive personality (ya THINK?), and this is something I decided long ago I would allow as an outlet for that compulsiveness since no harm would seem to come from it (as opposed to drugs or alcohol or eating or spending or whatever). But contrary to what one might expect it also honestly brings me pointed and daily joy. Some of it is doubtless the comfort of routine, but it's more than this. My first sip of every day (where my mug sits on my bedside table) is something like what I imagine a coffee lover must feel when they smell good coffee. Sometimes I actually daydream about an upcoming Diet Coke encounter. Sad but true.

I don't know--maybe they put something in the mix that addicts one to it, but when I go on the wagon (as I have done many times because I figure it can't be good to drink this much of anything, even water!) I neither go thru withdrawal nor feel physically better in any way. So after a month or so I figure why bother? (Also, for the record: the contention that soda dehydrates one is absolute bunkum. I used to run 7-9 miles a day, 5 days per week, and I never drank anything else; and I have never had any hydration issues. Nyah nyah.)

Well now the GOD-DAMNED Italians have gone and done a study with rats wherein they find that even fairly normal dosages of aspartame (based on body weight) beget an increased incidence of certain kinds of cancers, especially in female rats (DAMN! There goes the sex change operation)--the very news I had feared would someday come.

So I spent the day yesterday in a low-grade funk, searching thru various convenience store coolers for some alternative, a new mistress, as it were, some worthy surrogate. Diet Coke with Splenda? (Love the idea of Splenda, but it so isn't the same.) Diet Rite? (Also with Splenda; it's not bad, but not nearly as readily-available.) Diet 7-Up? (Not bad, but cola and citrus are a long ways apart.) I spent nine hours on the road driving from WI to KY, but nobody offered me a viable solution.

Then when I got to the crash pad, after a supper at our beloved Qdoba (but drinking WATER... god) I spent a little time online trying to see if my lurking desire to jump off a bridge was justified. There it was, the study. Everyone was concerned. But several people reminded us that Aspartame had been extensively studied and no link to health concerns prior to this study with rats had yet been found; that didn't invalidate this study, but it was a reminder that a clear indication of a problem was not by any means in hand. A glimmer of hope. And then I read a comment from a doctor on WebMD that rescued me from my doldrums--just in time! He said that Aspartame is in almost unfathomably widespread use, that we have literally billions and billions of person-doses on record over a very long time, and yet we've seen nothing like increases in cancer that would surely follow if this study's conclusions were spot on. Again, not that the study had no validity--he said the study's conclusions were troubling--but it wasn't a slam dunk.

So, like thru marriage counseling from Corporate Heaven, our storied relationship has been given a new, if limited-term, lease on life! The can sits bubbling in front of me as I write, beckoning me with its glimmering countenance and coquettish stance and tinkling siren song.

So I whisper my oath of fidelity: I'll always love you, magic elixir!


The Retropolitan said...

That's bizarre, although I'm with you on the not drinking water thing. I can drink unlimited supplies of any other beverage, just as long as it is not H2O. As a recommendation, I can suggest from personal experience that beer would not be a good substitute for your Diet Coke. At least not for more than one day.

Two day, tops.

Chairborne Stranger said...

Aw man, I gotta stop reading your blog-I'm a huge Diet Coke fan, even in the desert, I mean, I have like 2 open in front of me right now, I refuse to quit.

wunelle said...

Retro: yeah, I too have a strange aversion to water. I take some with my vitamins and some old-person metamucil, and it almost gags me! Beer for a pilot would probably not fly (hahaha). At least not 12+ a day.

CS--See? YOU UNDERSTAND. I think, between ourselves, we're fighting the wrong enemy! It's those Eye-talian scientists we ought to go after. I'll lead the charge! (Here, let me grab a cold one first... You know, for courage!)

Chairborne Stranger said...

Ah yes, I'm with you, I think the liquid courage will help,and there'll be an easier exit strategy for Rome than Baghdad.

Bianca said...

My best friend is also addicted to Diet Coke. She doesn't even like the taste of regular Coke. The addiction she says is some combination of the caffeine (she doesn't drink coffee or tea), the nose-tingling buzz of high carbonation and the distinctive sweetness of the aspartame. But, I gotta say the stuff is poison. I tell her that, too. And she knows it's true so she's always trying to cut down.

Even the skeptical OB doctors warn you not to ingest any artificial sweeteners when pregnant. I figure if it's not good for the fetus, probably not good for the grown-up either. Sorry, I know that's not good news to anyone. Maybe one of the natural sodas? Or iced tea or something?

wunelle said...

I just think the OB doctors are afraid that exposing the little ones to something so magical will leave them depressed and disappointed by the reality they encounter when they must face the real world ;-)

matty said...

You;ve got me laughing, and here I thought, when I read the title to this post, I was going to read a piece about saving the life of Tookie, our California death row inmate and founder of the Crips gang. Alas it was not to be.

mango said...

I carry around one of those 64 oz. insulated mugs that loudly screams "gluttonous American!"