On December 24, 2008, I decided that I was giving up soda. I drank it way too often, and the benefits (refreshing! awakening! taste!) were overwhelmed by the negatives (liquid crap into the body). For the ensuing two months, after averaging about 1 1/2 sodas per day, I stopped.
Then, today, I had a Coke.
However, I’m not upset. In fact, I ask you to step into my shoes.
I’m in Tennessee, doing a story about the coal ash spill that took place in a small town outside of Knoxville called Harriman. This afternoon I was fortunate enough to find a nice couple who agreed to show me around; talk about the disaster; etc. For about six hours, they drove me into the heart of the devastationâ€”a beautiful rural community now buried in black mounds of crap. According to environmental groups, the air is suspect; the water even more suspect. Different chemicals and metals have infiltrated the streams and lakes, creating a potentially toxic brew.
While the couple that showed me around is very angry at the government for allowing this to happen, they (naively, I think) do not fear the water. So when I arrived at their house, they offered me a prepared lunch (a ham-and-cheese sandwich with two pickle slices and chips. Very nice and kind. But the dialogue went like this: Woman: “I hope you like ham.” Me: “Yeah, uh, yeah.” Woman: “Is something wrong?” Me: “Uh, well.” Woman: “Are you a vegetarian?” Me: “No, but I’m Jewish. I don’t eat pork.” Man: “But that’s ham.”) and a drink. “We have water and soda,” the woman said. “What can I get you?”
Again, you’re me. Here’s the choice:
A. Metal-laced water.
B. Denied soda.
I had the Coke. And a cheese sandwich.
On a serious note, these are wonderful people who have been unfairly destroyed. The day was actually an excellent reminder of how, politically speaking, I can sure be an anus. These were die-hard Republicans who owned more than 200 guns, belonged to the NRA, surely believe in pro-life and anti-gay marriage. They were sheltered, not overly curious … and wonderful. Living in New York, it’s easy to forget that decent people exist who share none of your values.