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:
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.