I am a simple Man of Cola. Preferably, fountain cola.
All day long, I gurgle happily as I sip from a large cup of Diet Coke, and the only concession to any sort of health implications is that, at noon, I switch from regular Diet Coke to Caffeine Free Diet Coke.
The Burger King on Colman Street in New London has long been my go-to source for cola - and recently they confounded my entire worldview by installing a new fountain soft drink machine the likes of which could have been conceived by Leonardo Da Vinci or Nikola Tesla.
Instead, though, the damned thing was designed by the same automotive and aerospace engineers who make Ferrari automobiles.
I kid you not.
Called the Coca-Cola Freestyle, the machine is sleek but hiply retro, recalling the old-fashioned Coke bottle-dispensing constructs associated with malt shops of yore. At the same time, it's insanely futuristic, with a touch-screen interface that can spin you off into an ever-expanding array of soft drink possibilities.
You start by punching the main activating button and filling your cup with ice. Then it's lift off!
Appearing on the touch-screen will be a circular array of app-like buttons with soft drink logos on them: Coke, Dr. Pepper, Fanta, Sprite, Dasani and their respective diet versions. If you press Diet Coke, for example, a new screen pops up with flavor-accented derivations of your Diet Coke: orange, cherry, peach, lime, lemon, vanilla and raspberry are representative possibilities.
But you're not locked into just that choice. Fill, oh, a third of your cup with orange-flavored Diet Coke, then hit the re-set button and start all over. Maybe you choose Sprite this time, and add vanilla. Then head for root beer and nuance it with peach and then raspberry flavoring.
It's sort of the soft drink version of the Gauss-Legendre Algorithm that extends the digits of pi to infinity - only you can get fries!
Brian Beeler, the general manager of the Colman Street BK franchise, says the new cola machine has been quite popular.
There are plenty of older folks like myself who remember the legacy of a "suicide" from youth, where you'd randomly mix 'n' match the basic soft drink flavors to create a new, exotic and, if I remember correctly, typically awful drink. Folks of my generation, Beeler says, are tentatively revisiting those experiments.
The Facebook Kids of today, though, are far more organized, Beeler says, and actually post various recipes using precise measurements and flavors from the Freestyle machine. This is the type of youthful industry and engineering that will one day stop plagues. In the meantime, it's enough that it tastes new and good.
The whole thing is admittedly entertaining, so much so that my pal and Day videographer Alex Nunes - who falls into the Facebook Kids demographic - decided to mix a variety of Freestyle concoctions and serve them in to me in a blind taste test.
You can see Alex's video report of this experiment at theday.com. In the meantime, let me say that he's a fiendishly diabolical mixologist and chortles evilly at my reactions to some of his work. He did come up with one recipe that, if mixed with a bit of rum and a beachfront setting, might prove soothing as a tropical libation.
The others were horrible - including a surprise finale.
Me? While I appreciate the Mars-landing technology of the Freestyle, and wish only good thoughts to those who would explore the vast frontiers of Refreshment Possibility, I'm happy to simply hit the Diet Coke button and relax.
After all, I am a simple Man of Cola. And that's enough.