Ok, people. It’s time to address a problem: the new soda machines. Evidently there’s a name for them: “The Coca-Cola Freestyles.” They are popping up everywhere claiming to be the soda drinker’s dream: you get over 100 choices of savory sodas lickety-split. You can mix and match sodas. You can even download an app and create a special name for your unique and creative concoction. The Freestyle machine promises to deliver a way for you to craft your favorite sodas- all at the touch of a screen similar to an I-Pad. Sounds wonderful, right?
But wait: there’s more.
If you walk into an establishment with one of these fancy Freestyles, beware. You might be waiting in line for a very long time. Recently, a quick stop for a mid-day bite at my favorite burger joint was anything but that. I mean, I anticipated a line to order, but what I didn’t anticipate was the wait after the wait. Wait! I mean I anticipated the wait for my food after the wait to order (it’s a popular burger place after all) but I never expected an additional wait. The line to wait for the soda machine. And I don’t even drink soda.
As the delay seemed dreary and painful, I decided I’d sit down and hold this one out. As I watched the fickle soda drinkers in line waiting, I observed their faces: not one (!) seemed happy. These were soda connoisseurs lining up for their ultimate refreshment! I’d have expected to find them licking their lips, chatting about their choices, swishing from foot to foot like a youngster badly in need of a bathroom. I was disappointed.
First there was the teenager, pants-a-saggin’, scrolling through the choices. He knew he wanted to try something new, something that would satisfy his parched throat, yet he couldn’t decide. He added a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a taste. Pours it out. Tries another combination. I almost pulled out my smartphone to time the shenanigans. Next, there was the mother of two on her phone (!) juggling a toddler on one hip, and latched to her other side was a child tugging at her purse for attention. The child was about to cry because he was trying to let his mommy know he wanted a Sprite flavored with a bit of Cherry and a bit of Lime. As his mom wasn’t listening–remember she was on the phone–the child began to cry. You know, the cry that starts with a whimper and then leads to a full-on whine, then the tears, then the “what’s wrong honey?”, followed by the “I, I, I, I want S-S-S-S-Spite with Chewwwee and L-L-Lime. Not just PWAIN Spite, Mom.” Phone goes down. Kid bawls (louder) and the toddler, poor guy, had no idea what he wanted. Sorry, kid. The Freestyle doesn’t do this for milk. I do a quick count of people in the line…8 thirsty customers deep. Okay. Next up: a non-soda drinker, rolling his eyes, wanting to say something to the mom, but initiates self-control by literally biting his finger to keep himself from letting loose. After many attempts, and a few mumbled cuss words, he finally locates the damn button that says “home.” (Where in all reality, he’d probably now rather be!) Once on the home screen, he goes on the hunt for the water button. Finally, he locates it down in the bottom left-hand corner. Water doesn’t get the big, fancy, and colorful buttons to vie for your attention like the soda does. If you want to be healthy, you have to search for it. I was surprised he didn’t just give up his New Year’s resolution and go for the sugar.
My food arrives. I still haven’t dared jump into the line for my water. Maybe I won’t need water with my food today, I think. I’m sure my saliva is enough to help this burger digest. The good thing about the old soda machines was that you only got 4 to 5 choices or you could get water with that little tab on the side. Easy. Peazy. Lemon-squeezy. (As the elementary kids love to say!) Let’s not forget, either, the convenience: more than one person could get their drink at a time.
The Coca-Cola website leads you to believe this to be an experience like no other. You’ll see a young man, smiling from cheek to cheek, choosing his soda with ease. The advertisement promotes three easy steps: get ice, select a drink, then pour and enjoy. The funny thing is, there is no one waiting in line behind them. They fail to show how “selecting a drink” for the average Joe can pose quite a conundrum. They don’t show the indecisive one, the multi-tasking Mom, or the impatient hothead. In theory, Coca-Cola has hit the nail on the head. More selection=more happy customers. But what happens when something goes wrong with the machine? When there’s a digital dilemma, a critical malfunction, a technology blunder? Not only will the line get longer, tempers will undoubtedly flare. Will we soon be seeing headlines such as “Woman arrested for assault while waiting her turn for soda” or “Local food manager gives out bottled soda to his unsatisfied freestylers?” Time will tell, my friends. Time will tell.
I finish my burger. I can’t keep my eyes off the fascinating soda machine. Next up in line: the elderly woman.
I rest my case.