Seraphim said it was like a slap in my face, but I beg to differ. This, dearfolk, was a punch in the gut. Or - thinking about the old '70s "Alka Seltzer" commercials - The Ol' One-Two.
It was an otherwise uneventful trip to our local Bolivarian House Of Groceries, getting a few needed things, and finding ourselves traipsing down the soft drink aisle. When, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something I did not expect to see: A 12-pack of Diet Squirt. It was orphaned, sitting in an empty spot next to Mountain Dew Code Chartreuse Caffeine-Free Whatever.
Squirt - for those unfamiliar - is a citrus/grapefruit soda. It's not a thing like Mountain Dew or Mello Yello, or -- eccccccccccch!!!!!!! -- Sun Drop. Squirt is a great soda with a bite, without all the gooey syrupy aftertaste common to many regular soft drinks. I've loved it for many years, ever since I had my first taste of one back in Pine Bluff.
Yes, Pine Bluff. You can get Squirt just about any-friggin'-where in Arkansas. Even Atlanta has 'em. So why not here??!!
Suddenly I got excited. GREAT CRISPY BUDDAH, THEY'RE CARRYING SQUIRT IN THESE PARTS!! AT LONG LAST!! I made a beeline for the RC Cola section (the RC and 7-UP distributors typically carry the Squirt line). Not a thing. Not a single gap. No shelf tags anywhere. I then went to the "Canada Dry" section, where the club sodas, tonic water and other mixers are kept; Squirt (and the late, lamented Canada Dry grapefruit soda "Wink") is regarded in many corners as a superb drink mixer.
Would I finally be able to buy Squirt at the store as easily as a loaf of bread? Would this mean no more stopping at a grocery store anywhere we're visiting, in the chance that it's a "Squirt-friendly" market? I have a name for those stops: Squests. It's a quest for Squirt.
When I see the bright yellow packaging peeking out from the RC section, I know I've found carbonated nirvana. I usually buy 'em out (always earning looks of bewilderment and/or amusement at the checkout). What's more, I even share my booty with Tiger and send him home with at least a couple of 12-packs (yes, the kid loves Squirt, too). Ain't I a good Dad?
Well ANYhoo, I summoned the manager on duty. Now, I should've known that whomever was in charge of a grocery store at 8:00 at night would not necessarily be closest to the loop when it came to matters of procurement. This woman, indeed, knew nussing about this mysterious 12-pack.
I asked her if there was any chance, or any way, Kroger would be able to stock Squirt. The tone of her voice said it all: "Why can't you just get Coke or Pepsi and be happy, like everybody else?"
Well, I put this 12-pack into our shopping cart (or, as they like to say in Tiger Ridge and other places where family trees have single limbs, "buggy"), and decided I'd test their elaborate inventory system. "Will it scan?" (said to the tune of "Will it Float?")
As we were checking out, the young woman scanned the Diet Squirt.
It came up. What's more, IT HAD A REDUCED PRICE ON THE "KROGER PLUS" CARD!!
Well, I'm going to have some words with the Kroger store manager tomorrow. He also happens to have another job, too: Mayor of Rincon, Georgia. If he wants the vote of several friends and relatives in Alabama, living or dead (may God bless Georgia!), I'll deliver 'em if he can deliver me some Squirt.
Add this to the pile of Great Mysteries: Why are there two dozen different flavors and lines of Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper .... but not so much as ONE regular grapefruit soda? I mean, you can buy Fanta Pineapple Soda, and, yes, there's Fresca (which I do enjoy whenever the mood hits. It's not bad for a 'diet' drink). So why not a sugared Fresca? Fanta does make a line called Fanta Citrus, and it's parallel to Squirt. Is it carried? Hell, no!
My six favorite soft drinks, in case you're curious:
6) Coca-Cola. By default and getting lesser so by the minute.
5) Fresca. Aspartame is very 'meh.' It's okay, but it ain't sugar.
4) Barq's Root Beer. Anything else -- Mug or A&W -- is flat tasting to me. Barq's, which started in Biloxi, Miss., is how root beer is supposed to taste.
3) "Fountain" Dew. It's what I call Mountain Dew 'on tap.' I don't understand it -- MD tastes very low-carbonated and as gooey/syrupy as Vick's cough medicine out of the can or especially bottle. But in the fountain, it has bite. Strong and cuts through a thirst.
2) Double Cola. Regional drink out of Chattanooga, Tenn. More bite than Coke, and actually has a hint of a Dr. Pepper-y flavor. Huntsville used to be a major Double Cola market ... DC vending machines and outdoor signs on stores were as common as those for Coke and Pepsi.
1) Squirt. When I can bloody find the stuff.
By the way, I've never before tried Diet Squirt. I guess I'm gonna try it now.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Herb Bishop is my hero" Gleck
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