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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Futuristic Soda Fountain of Spiffiness, and My Experience With It

This morning, the Kibbitzer-in-Chief spotted an interesting article in her online local news. Apparently, a Jack-In-The-Box here in Vista (for those who might not know it, Jack-In-The-Box is a fast food burger chain) is pioneering a new self-serve Coca-Cola soda fountain.
"But wait!" you say. "We already have perfectly good self-serve soda fountains. Why, at the fast-food burger chain most proximate to my abode, I can dispense a cup of fizzy soda goodness into my own cup with dispatch--with joyful abandon, even. Not only that, but I can even mix sodas, producing bizarre and fantastical hybrids. Weird Sodas of my own devising! What say you to THAT, so-called Quaffmaster?"

Well, first let me say that I admire your ability to dispense sodas with joyful abandon. I, too, enjoy self-serve unlimited-free-refill soda dispensers, and I, too, feel the need to escape from the six or seven varieties of soda with which one is usually presented at such appliances by combining them in unnatural ways. When the Weirdest thing one can reasonably hope for is Pibb Xtra, one must create one's own Weirdness.

This new contraption, though, is supposed to provide increased personal choice in soda. It claims to be able to dispense over 100 different soda flavors. Well, that sounds like a job for the Quaffmaster if ever I heard one.

So this morning, after giving RoTalMomska a ride to the airport, I zipped over to the JITB to investigate this new bit of soda dispensing technology. And there it was, over in the corner. Rounded curves. It looked, honestly, a bit like a top-and-bottom clothes washer and dryer with a touchscreen. I moseyed (yes, moseyed) over. In front of the machine, with furrowed brows, were a couple of gentlemen. I looked over their shoulders and noticed that they were investigating the Fanta options.

"Peach Fanta. There's one I hadn't heard of before," I said. They turned.
"Thank the Lords of Carbonation you're here, Quaffmaster!" they exclaimed.

Well, okay, they didn't. Actually, they just sort of looked at me. If they recognized me as the Quaffmaster, they didn't show it. Perhaps they had been expecting me, knowing that such a device must soon attract my attention.

"It's kind of stupid, but kind of cool," said the one with a blond ponytail and beard.
That sounded right up my alley.

After they obtained their peach Fanta and departed, I had a chance to look over the device. The touchscreen presented a variety of beverage logos, from Coke to Sprite to Fanta to Barq's. So far, while it was a decent set of non-Weird sodas it wasn't anything special. I touched "Coke"...and was presented with a submenu of options. Cherry Coke. Lemon Coke. Vanilla Coke. Orange Coke. Raspberry Coke.
Hmmm...that's a bit more interesting.
Sprite produced a similar set of options, as did Fanta. It appeared that what we had here was a device which could add a variety of fruit syrups to various standard sodas, producing soda flavors which were...well...slightly less standard. Weirdoid? Weirdesque? Weird-adjacent? Still, a little Weird in your soda is far better than no Weird at all.
I decided to start with a raspberry Coke, made the appropriate selection, placed my cup in the obvious receptacle, and hit the big button which was labeled "Dump".

Okay, not "Dump". I don't remember what it was. "Dispense", probably.

A small amount of soda was dispensed to my cup, but it stopped as soon as I let go of the button. Ah! Here was a possibility. The ability to do combinations exponentially increases the available Weirdness. Now we can explore the possibility of raspberry-peach-lime Barq'sa-Cola. That's pretty Weird! NO! You CORPORATE ANTI-WEIRDNESS SHOGGOTH-BORNE LEPROUS...

Apparently, the flavor options for Barq's are...Barq's. No Raspberry. No lime. Not even vanilla. If, as I strongly suspect, this doohickey just adds syrup to soda bases, why would you cut off the truly Weird options? Was there some sort of soulless focus group somewhere which felt that someone might seek weird Barq's, and not like it, and they would be forever scarred? Curses!

Oh, well. I like italian sodas too--some fruit syrup in club soda. That should work. Let's see...choose "Water"...then "Club Soda"...

Curse you! CURSE YOU, SODA CONTRAPTION FOCUS GROUP! Club soda is just club soda.

Alas, the only Weirdness the Coca-Cola company is willing to tolerate is the anemic semi-Weirdness on which their approval is laid. While this device does permit one a tip-of-the-tongue experience with Weirdness, it isn't the real thing. And Coke is SUPPOSED TO BE THE REAL THING!

I have to hope that somewhere on this machine there is a secret option for truly classic Coke. Not "Coke Classic"...I mean the ORIGINAL recipe.
With cocaine.
Another acceptable option would be a specific tack in advertising. Something along the lines of "With the new Coca-Cola Dispensing Machine of the Future, you don't need a soda jerk. You can be your own jerk!"

Ah, well. Disappointment is all part of the quest for Weird Sodas. And I have to admit...I kind of grooved on Raspberry Coke. I just hate to see opportunities wasted.


  1. I recall a similar contraption at what I think was a 7-11 a couple of years ago. I don't frequent the chain very often so I couldn't tell you whether the device still exists in their stores. The flavor options were limited to vanilla and cherry and were simply buttons next to each soda. The option existed for all sodas, however.

  2. They still have those around here--the ability to add cherry, lemon, and/or vanilla to any of their fountain drinks. This was something different. More options, but their application limited by the hideous, impersonal power of those hidden circuits.

  3. I have yet to go into a JITB to try this out(i've only been to JITB once, through the drive-thru when a friend was driving), but it sounds quite interesting.
    Even so, you could probably make Orange Lemon-Raspberry Peach Sprite Vanilla Cherry Coke.

    The point of my comment, however, was that I think McDonald's fountain coke is original coke formula. Sans cocaine I'm sure, but I think thay McDonald's coke is what Coca Cola tasted like before the whole "New Coke" fiasco. Hear me out. Everyone makes a big deal of it, whole theory of new flavoring or whatever. Well, if you get a fountain coke from anywhere-it essentially tastes like a watered down version of what you get in your 20 oz./2L/can of Coke. However, if you get it from McD's, it tastes very distinct, and is much more delicious than Coke from anywhere else. Who would have the marketing clout to force Coke to provide the original formula exclusively? Fucking McDonald's, that's who.

  4. You know, I've noticed that too. I wasn't sure why, but I agree that McDonald's Coke tastes different. I always assumed they must use a different syrup/water ratio, but maybe you're right...


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