Monday, March 13, 2006

The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Quick: name three corporations that are every bit as evil as R.J. Reynolds & Co., and yet not only have so far shrugged off attack but also directly target children as their audience?

Give up? Here they are:

1) McDonald's
2) Coke
3) Starbucks

Well, actually, the last one doesn't specifically target kids (other than slamming down little Starbucks outlets in high school cafeterias), but then is also seldom attacked for its products and/or policies, but merely for being so darn big and for being "the only coffee around, so what was I supposed to do?"

I know, I know, I've included my beloved Coke in there, but let me tell you a couple of stories about Coke.

Before I met Sandra Bullock, I was living a completely unstructured, nomadic life. In the prior two years (1989-90), I had moved to Seattle, then to Boston, then back to Seattle (for a girl who quickly faded from my life after slapping me in front of my friends at a New Year's party). Each time, I moved with no more possessions than would fill my car. In fact, when I moved to Boston, I sold the car and put my stuff into three boxes. I left a string of futons in empty rooms on each coast.

But I digress.

My point here is that, prior to inserting S. Bullock into my life, my daily diet consisted of a sandwich (which is how you start your day when you wake up at 11:30 and there's a cute girl working at the sandwich shop on the corner), something for dinner, beer, and 64 oz. of Cherry Coke. What did I know? I weighed 165 pounds and stayed up until 4 am every night. Everything seemed to be going along fine. If I wanted a Coke, I drank a Coke. Or two. Or just the whole big bottle. Hop on the mountain bike, ride a few miles, play some volleyball, good as new.

Sandra Bullock entered my life on December 28, 1990. At that point, I was working three different waiter jobs. There were six inches of snow on the ground. For Christmas, my friend Jim and I ate Campbell's soup, then went to a bar. We fell down four times on the way home. It was icy. I was wearing a leather jacket and my dad's old London Fog raincoat over a yellow hooded sweatshirt I'd found.

Into this comes Sandra Bullock, who was then just as you know her now: lean, precise and consistent. A bit more preppy than she is now, but otherwise intact.

I stand before you now a changed man in many ways. Importantly, one of those S. B.-inspired (demanded?) changes has been a serious curtailing of my Coke intake. I am down to one 12 oz. can per day, usually at lunch.

What would my life be like now were I to continue tossing down the equivalent of a 7-11 "Big Tanker" each day? I'd have no teeth and would weight 300 lbs.

Why is Coke evil? Let me tell you another story. In 1998, I was teaching English at Blanchet High School in Seattle. One day, right before the bell rang to end school, the activities director's voice came over the loudspeaker: "Hey, kids! The people from Coke are here to give you free samples of their new drink (I can't remember the name of it)! Just head out to the quad and pick up your free sample!"

I was floored. It makes sense, though. All drug dealers give out a free taste to get future customers hooked. "Don't you do it!" I told my class dramatically, channeling Officer Candidate Mayo as he pleads with Gunnery Sargeant Foley from a mud puddle, "Don't let them pour that stuff down your throats!" Ineffective. They laughed at me. They may have even told me to "lighten up." Off they went, to get a their free samples of sugar and highly-addictive caffeine.

If you do not have children, you undoubtedly realize that McDonald's is gross, lowbrow and yet ubiquitous, but do you know how know truly evil it is? After driving a few miles with the annoying pleading of an 8-year-old who knows, because they saw it advertised during "Ed, Edd and Eddy," that McDonald's is including Star Wars watches with their Happy Meals, you, too will understand the nefarious ways of Ray Kroc's empire. And then when you're in McDonald's, take a look around at the other customers. Then go home and watch "Supersize Me." Gross.

Which brings us to Starbucks, supporting player in the "Pottery Barn Nation" post of a few weeks ago. Yesterday I stopped into a Starbucks with a client. There I noticed, not for the first time, pre-teen kids buying those bottled coffee things. "Mocha! Mocha!" yelled one of them.

It's the tip of the iceberg, but you know I don't do politics. Me, I just wish I could still put away 64 oz. of Cherry Coke a day and feel right as rain. Man, you should have seen the head of hair I was sporting back then.


Blogger hocus_lopez said...

It kinda makes you wonder if "Mocha! Mocha!" the new "Toga! Toga!"

1:44 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

That hair was indeed something to behold. For those of you without personal experience, picture Lyle Lovett, much darker and thicker, just as tall. I kid you not.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i guess you don't get into or read about the awful hiring/hours worked per week vs. benifits of wallmart? surely they are THE MOST evil

2:19 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

interesting you should mention that. i just finished a book called "the united states of wal-mart," which outlines all of that, but also mentions that, in a depressed area -- where, say, there are absolutely no jobs and no place to shop -- wal-mart can actually offer options where there are none. of course, if you want to get into their outsourcing of labor -- paying people in china or bangladesh $0.05 per day to make knock-off jeans, well, sure.

i've been an anti-walmart honk all along. naturally, like most middle-class snobs, i've never been in one. but i think this book makes a good point (kind of hidden among its anti-walmart stuff) -- that it's easy for me to trash walmart, because i can just walk out my door and buy organic greens that i can afford.

and as far as walmart killing downtowns -- which was my big complaint about big box stores -- if they stick to downtowns that are already dead, maybe they actually can do some good?

/political awareness. back to conversation about gum and water pressure.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

o you are missing out! please, please go into one just to take a gander at the shoppers. also unlike you i do have to shop in walmart sometimes. they are soooooooooo cheap.but i wont go into why they are not good for the working poor. i do like my gum in the mint flavors. and to save my jaw, i chew just 1/3 of a piece at a time. it seems to help. and save $$.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

ladies and gentlemen, for your enjoyment, scottsdale's own woody little sister!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coke refused to honor the boycott of Israel, therefore they are above reproach,

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean if I drink real Coke I'll grow my hair back? And here I always thought it was genetics.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Ken Dunque said...

coke is in some hot water with their bottling plant in Columbia (8 dead, possibly union organizing workers). Really, it's just sugar water with caffeine, like coffee if you take it with a lot of lumps. McDonalds? I don't know, loved it for so long, now I wouldn't go in their now unless seriously stuck on I80, but I am a bit reluctant to bash it.

Garment workers in Bangladesh make ~$50 per month (~$2 per day), china is maybe double that. And those aren't knock offs they're making for Walmart, those are honest to goodness Levis.

I guess for many it goes back to the aforementioned Officer Candidate Mayo, "I got nowhere else to go!"

2:20 PM  
Blogger Ken Dunque said...

Oh, forgot to affirm, Larry had a killer lid in his day.

2:23 PM  

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