Doctor Haroon Dindar of Mpumalanga was outraged when he discovered there was alcohol in a bottle of Coca-Cola he bought from the Coke depot in Ermelo.
The company admitted liability, saying the alcohol was caused by “a specific and unique set of environmental conditions” that were conducive to fermentation.
I, too, had the misfortune of drinking large amounts of Coca-Cola on Saturday night, every glass of which was heavily contaminated by some sort of brandy-flavoured alcohol.
In this case the unique set of environmental conditions occurred in Bob’s Bar, a tavern conducive to intoxication.
This is not the first time I have had trouble with Coke.
Some years ago I was compelled to write to Coca-Cola’s chief executive officer, Douglas Daft, at his offices in Atlanta, Georgia:
“Dear Mr Daft, the British must have a good giggle about your name. But anyone who makes it to the top of the Coca-Cola empire cannot be all that daft. My advice is to stop selling Coke in Britain. That will teach the swine.
I am sure you are a busy man so I will come straight to the point. I had my neighbours, Ted and Mary, around the other evening for a braai. This is similar to your barbecue except South Africans generally use the occasion to drink enormous amounts of alcohol before attacking one another over some irrelevant political or religious issue.
The evening was progressing well until I noticed that Brenda, my wife, had begun to smile a lot. This alone is aberrant behaviour. Mary had also begun giggling and by the end of the evening the two of them were staggering about the garden holding on to one another and shouting like a couple of adolescents on drugs.
The next day they both swore they had not touched anything apart from a dozen or so glasses of Coke each.
Ted’s theory is that your company is still lacing the product with cocaine. I understand this is how your people got the rest of the world addicted in the first place. I told him it was very unlikely you would still be pursuing the practice today. Not with cocaine costing $50 a gram. Or so I hear. Ted said you could be using a generic.
Please let me know if twelve glasses of Coca-Cola could make a smallish woman lose all control and misbehave to such an extent that she needs to be strapped to a lemon tree.
Since Brenda and Mary had drained the house of every last drop of Coke, there was nothing I could send off for analysis.
Getting a urine sample from Brenda proved more difficult that you might imagine, particularly after I tried to ambush her in the bathroom.
She called me a degenerate urophiliac and turned on me with a short-handled wooden Ovambo war club that she keeps strapped to her thigh.
The argument was short but brutal and in the end I had to settle for a blood sample instead. The analysis picked up something altogether unexpected, which made me suspect that the blood might have been my own.
The, in a flash, Coca-Cola replied to my letter 47 days later. Steven Ivey, consumer affairs specialist, said: “On behalf of Doug Daft, thank you for contacting our consumer information centre. Please be assured, our products do not contain cocaine or any other harmful substance, and cocaine has never been an added ingredient for Coca-Cola.”
Along with his assurances, he sent me a pamphlet titled “Soft Drink Nutrition”.
You have to love the American sense of humour. Coke and reality have never had much in common.
Take, for example, the lyrics to one of the company’s first advertising jingles: “I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love, grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves. I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” *
Whenever I read those words my head is filled with images of burnt-out cars and tattered war orphans. Maybe some kind of fuse has blown in my brain.
Coca-Cola has an advertisement running on television at the moment. It involves an apparently unemployed, possibly homeless black woman wandering through city streets singing to herself and giving complete strangers already-opened bottles of Coke from a bag over her shoulder.
A normal reaction might be to put the bottle down and find somewhere to wash your hands as soon as possible. Or maybe even attempt a citizen’s arrest. People who behave like this have usually escaped from an institution of some sort.
Unless it happens in South Africa, of course. In this country you could set up a stand with a bunch of glass jars clearly marked, “Klebsiella Virus – Free!” and an unruly queue would form within minutes. We love free stuff. So do the people in the advert, apparently.
Ecstatic at receiving an open container from a visibly disturbed person, they react as if they had just been handed the elixir of life instead of a liquid capable of burning the corrosion off old car batteries.
- You may prefer my version of the Coke jingle:
“I’d like to buy the world a gram and garnish it with thrills; Grow dagga trees and jail keys, and snow white Mandrax pills.”