Over this past weekend, I attended a baby shower party. My youngest son and his wife are expecting their first baby next month. The party was an open house format. Family and friends were invited with no regard of gender, age, IQ, eye color, political affiliation or…, well, you get the point.

I spent a lot of time hanging around near the refreshment tables. That’s a good place to be for greeting people. And, it’s a good place to be if one feels like there might be potential danger of losing weight. I consumed lots of cookies, chips, candy, and I got my fair share of soda pop.

I continue to feel self-inflicted pressure to join the club of non-soda drinkers. I noticed there were a bunch of them at the party. Having passed a kidney stone a few years ago, I should have incentive to join that club. I’m not sure if there really is a correlation between kidney stones and soda. Some people think there is a connection.

What I’m drinking at the moment, as I write this column, is an old-fashioned Diet Coke. There are new twists on old products all the time. They come and go. I don’t think they make Coke Plus anymore. It had vitamins and minerals. I drank that for a while, but it just didn’t taste quite right. Actually, no soda pop with “zero sugar” tastes quite right. But, I drink it anyway.

The Coke Plus formula had Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Magnesium and Zinc in it. Of course, it still had carbonated water, phosphoric acid, phenylalanine and aspartame, not to mention that ingredient that seems to make all the difference: caffeine.

I’m still waiting for Coke or Pepsi to add the ingredients that would really make a difference for me. How about a cholesterol reducer, a blood pressure reducer, an antidepressant, and oh, what the heck, throw in a little Viagra into the soft drink cocktail just for kicks.

I’m a little worried about the soft drink industry. My late father in law retired from that business back in the 1994. He had his own private label (Stafford Ginger Ale Co.) and bottled a couple dozen flavors of the fizzy beverage in Connecticut. His company had home delivery, just like a milkman’s route. When visiting grandma and grandpa, my kids would drink soda pop for breakfast, lunch and dinner and finished the day with a sarsaparilla nightcap.

My worry is that I’m finding that more and more people in my life are choosing not to drink soda. This smacks of un-American behavior to me.

There’s a reason that Shasta Root Beer has the date 1889 on it. A can of A&W Root Beer has “Since 1919” printed on it. There’s an anti-soda pop conspiracy afoot in this country. It’s gnawing at the foundations of our soda pop heritage. Do we think that we can toss off our Root Beer traditions in this country without consequences?

For one thing, think of what would happen to the dental care business in this country if we quit soda pop consumption. The ripple effect from the decrease in dentists’ income would travel right to the heart of Wall Street. Commerce would stop as surely as a dragonfly stops when it hits my forehead as I ride my scooter. (Those kinds of “stops” are not pleasant – for anybody)

The culprit is H 2 0. Yes – water. Recent years have brought us the advent of the popularization of water. People are drinking it like it’s good for them or something.

Water has become the “hip” thing to drink. People come to my house and I’ll say something like, “Would you like something to drink? I’ve got Ginger Ale, Sprite, 7-Up, three varieties of Root Beer, Fresca, Squirt, Lemonade, Black Cherry, Dr. Pepper, Apple Beer, Diet Pepsi, Mexican Coca Cola, Milk, Orange Crush, Orange Juice, Chocolate Slim Fast, Diet Coke, water, and a bunch of other stuff.” (I don’t offer whiskey — even though I have a bottle in my emergency food storage. Don’t ask why. And don’t tell my bishop.)

So – after that beverage offer to visitors, can you guess what about 80 percent of them say? Their response is: “Oh, could I just have some water please?” I suck in a breath of disbelief and disappointment. And then I ask, “Would that be caffeinated or uncaffeinated water? Vitamins added or not? Flavored or not? Tap water or Arrowhead or Mt. Olympus or WalMart or Smart Water or Evian? (Have you noticed that Evian spelled backwards is Naïve?) Would you like it in a glass? With or without ice?”

What I really want to say is, “Water? … Water!? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know that water is more expensive than gasoline? Water? That’s what we’re saving for our houseplants. Water? We’re in a desert here. Water is for special occasions like weddings and formal dinner parties. I’m offering you America’s soft drink – Root Beer!”

Okay – okay. I admit it. In spite of all of the above ranting, I drink water too – in addition to soft drinks. And I like it. But, I do like to put lemon oil, peppermint oil and some of that flavor powder stuff you buy in little boxes at the store into my water.

So, go ahead everyone. Continue to sip your water 24/7. But please, don’t forget your “American duty” to join me in plopping a scoop of ice cream into a glass of root beer every once in a while.

---Merrill

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