Sal Story #8: Diet Coke

I do not really drink caffeine. A paralyzing experience in college occurring on the very first day of my first test involving a half a Red bull for breakfast changed my view of edible stimulants. All I remember was that my ill-fated attempts to answer questions about various religions of the world were fuzzied by the feeling of nervousness, jittery fingers, freezing temperatures, and nausea.

But I will say, working mad people hours like we were, I treated myself to a little caffeine every once an a while. I still couldn’t fully come around to coffee, seeing as it shook up a lot more than just my energy. But on occasion (i.e. once or twice a week), I would grab a Diet Coke from the fridge and enjoy a little burst of afternoon energy during an unending day. On one particular afternoon, I popped open my pop and sat at my desk to begin filtering the emails.

Bev walked towards me and surveyed my selection of lunch foods. She always did this. It irked every one of us. Who likes to have their palette scrutinized? Did I have the right balance of carbs to protein? Was I eating at least four colors of food? I don’t know what she was trying to decipher, I just know she was so neurotic about eating only apples and the occasional pretzel that even my turkey sandwich option probably looked like a greasy hamburger to her.

“It’s funny,” she said with a smirk. “For someone who eats as healthy as you do, it’s very surprising that you drink any soda.” She walked away.

I kid you not, I am not sure if I took another sip of Diet Coke that entire year. Her anti-splenda/sucrose/carbonation comment hit me to the core. I was a healthy person, I rarely even drank the stuff!

Months later, after a blood drawing incident that went awry (and I peaced out at the health facility), I was trying to get through a long day at work. What I needed was orange juice. When Sal found out that I was rather ‘weak,’ he stormed out of his office and asked what was the matter with me. I explained that I had yacked and blacked out just an hour earlier from too much blood loss; I needed sugar and rest. He peered at me with those beady little eyes and said, “why don’t you just drink a Diet Coke or something?” Rude.

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