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Thursday, November 29, 2012  

The Icee Index

Like a lot of people, I read Atlas Shrugged -- once -- when I was younger. As a political manifesto, it's terrible, but at the time I was at least impressed with its…scope. Of course there are elements of it that were harder to swallow than others. In order of least believable to most believable, these included 1. The way any human being would talk or act, ever; 2. Any part of it touching even remotely on science, economics, or politics; and 3. The evocation of a society in decline. The part that sticks with me most is when a couple of characters journey into what has once again become desolate backwoods where once there were gleaming roads and office parks, to find former worker drones living in what is now crushing poverty, with limited access to the resources needed for daily life. The end of the world is always fascinating, even when it's in slow motion. And as it turns out, even when it's presented as the inevitable result of all the conservatives -- who after all are the only ones who know what they're doing -- finally taking their balls and going home.

Not that I buy the Rand worldview for a second, but I'm beginning to wonder if a similar decline has begun in real life. I mean, do you realize how hard it's getting to find a damn Coke Icee™ any more?

When I worked downtown, more than five years ago, I sometimes treated myself to Icees from the Target on the next block. You may enjoy your occasional foam-and-squiggle-topped latte, but I prefer my caffeinated beverages in ice-cold, carbonated form. And if some of it is particles of actual ice, so much the better. I reveled in the decadence of exotic Icee flavors like Wild Cherry Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and Crème Soda. Which are good enough in their normal format, but are elevated to entirely new heights if you put them in a completely made-up state of matter.

But then I switched jobs, which was worth it for a host of reasons, but now Target was further away and I went less frequently. Also, with a more open office plan, I felt a little more self-conscious about walking around with a big red plastic-domed cup rather than a dignified Starbucks receptacle. "You have your milkshake, I'll have mine," I was ready to snap at anyone who mocked me, but it cut into my enjoyment of the experience.

Soon I was getting most of my Icees when I went to the movie theater. And as I went more often and movies seemed to get less good, the Icee increasingly became a part of the experience I looked forward to most.

But you can't always get soda flavors. At the giant multiplex nearest my house, the Coke Icee machine was down two of my visits in a row. It might be working again by now, but to be honest I haven't been back since I had to console myself with a strawberry-lemonade abomination that looked like yellow snow from under a dog with a life-threatening kidney infection. Other theaters only have red or blue flavors, which are okay in a pinch or on a hot day at the State Fair (where I had not one but two tankards of sugary scarlet frost this year), but lack the subtlety required for a proper moviegoing experience.

And getting one from a drive-through is becoming a total crapshoot. The only place I'm aware of where you can get an Icee without getting out of your car is Burger King, but those places are getting farther and farther apart. I drove by another recently-closed one not long ago, in fact. Plus, unlike other drive-throughs, they're always shut down for the night by the time my band is done with a gig (which is generally when I want one most), plus the last time I stopped at a BK to try to get one before a gig, their Icee machine was down and I had to settle for a smoothie. Which is like wanting a beer and getting wheatgrass. And never mind the fact that the "large" size is an insult these days, because I mind enough for all of us.

To make it worse, even Target doesn't have the flavors it used to. Now (at least in our area) the only recognizable brand name among the generic fruit flavors is Jolly Rancher, which makes me about as jolly as a rancher who spends all his time on his spread looking for immigrants to shoot.

A few months ago, winded and sweaty from wrestling a new mattress onto the roof of my car solo in the Costco parking lot, I stopped at Sam's Club on the way home to fortify myself for the task of hauling it up our too-narrow stairs. I'm glad to say they were able to help me out. I'm also glad to say that this particular Sam's Club is within sight of my band's practice space, although I'm also embarrassed to say that the significance of this fact hasn't fully hit me until just now.

But you know what the saddest part is? The part that elevates all this to Greek tragedy? I don't even like Coca-Cola. It is literally my last-favorite soda on earth. And this is coming from someone who, last year in rural Missouri, downed glass after glass of something called "Red Tornado," a brand name that finally made sense to me that night in the hotel bathroom. But if I want a soda-flavored Icee (and I do, almost always), Coke is pretty much the only game in town any more.

Sometimes I still think of that libertarian paradise tucked away in the Rocky Mountains of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's hidden enclave of the best and brightest pursuing their talents free of interference from the government, and the small-minded, and the incompetent, and segments of the free market that want things Ayn Rand considers unworthy, and I just get hives. But damn, I bet they have one hell of an Icee machine there.

posted by M. Giant 9:24 AM 1 comments


I feel your pain! I can't stand the blecherous other flavors, just want my coke Icee. I've got a Target and a Burger King option, but their machines are out of order at least half the time.

I'm hoping Santa brings me one of those self-freezing coke vending machines for Christmas. Not quite an Icee, but I could live with it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 5, 2012 at 4:58 PM  

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