When I lived in the Seattle area, my local Safeway was the only place for miles that sold Tab. When I did my daily “how the fuck do you keep up with how much food a teenage boy eats?” grocery runs, there was around an 80% chance I’d be in line with a Tab hoarder: someone stocking up with a shopping cart full of twelve packs, often outwardly praising the sales clerk for working for an establishment that gives them their fix.
I used to shake my head at those people. I used to judge. I was such a fool.
Because now I am denied my soft drink of choice, and I feel like a strung-out junkie who would CROSS ANY LINE to get a fix. South Africa doesn’t sell Diet Coke.
In it’s place, there is Coca Cola Light, a god-forsaken concoction of cola-esque flavors and cyclamates, artificial sweeteners banned in the US because of their link to cancer. I can’t front: I am not opposed to Coca Cola Light because I think it is poison. I am well aware that aspartame is also probably slowly killing me. Of all the things that are slowly killing me, artificial sweeteners are on the second or third page of a VERY LONG list that probably has an entire page devoted to spirited beverages, not to mention standing directly in front of the microwave while it is on and failing to adequately rinse my produce.
The issue is not that Coca Cola Light is bad for my health, it is that it TASTES LIKE CAT BUTT. And don’t let cats fool you: CAT BUTT DOES NOT TASTE GOOD.
I have been trying to make do with Coke Zero, which appears to be sold here in the same formulation it is back in the States, but it’s JUST NOT THE SAME. It’s a bad cover version of Diet Coke, trying too hard to be Real Coke. No one wants Diet Coke to be Real Coke, and vis versa. That’s why New Coke failed! Diet Coke is its own entity, its own beautiful, shiny, fluffy, bubbly, refreshing, generally sense-pleasing entity.
And I miss it. I miss it so hard my bones feel it. And not just because they are unusually awash in calcium.
Diet Coke celebrated its 30th birthday on Monday. I follow @DietCokeUS on Twitter, because I am a masochist, and the celebration has left me feeling more bereft than ever. I want to tweet pictures of me with my 3PM pick-me-up can. But I can’t. Because it is waiting for me, 8,000 miles and three months away from me.
Don’t forget me, Diet Coke! I’ll be home soon.