I had a good laugh recently with a complete stranger, an older gentleman in Zaxby’s. I had gone up to get some iced tea but as usual, their water/ice dispenser was not working so I was forced to get ice from the dreaded Coca Cola Freestyle beverage dispenser. You know the one I speak about. This contraption:
I first came across The Coca Cola Freestyle beverage dispenser many years ago when I was in a Firehouse Subs. I believe Coca Cola started rolling them out somewhere around 2009 or 2010. While standing there feeling like I was looking at some sort of alien, it was explained to me that it was Coca Cola’s brand new beverage machine and it provided 100+ beverage options (way too many).
The flavoring agents are contained in cartridges (similar to your desktop printer cartridges but without the ink). Anything with a touch-screen intimidates my 58-year-old brain and this was no exception. But, I thought, how hard can this be? So I attempted to get a cherry coke by myself while I’m sure the teenagers behind me had a good laugh. I couldn’t get it to work. I don’t know if I wasn’t fast enough or was just doing something wrong, but the darn screen kept changing. My takeaway was that getting a coke shouldn’t be this hard. Feeling ever so flustered, I finally gave up and stomped away with an empty cup while spouting off to my husband that I didn’t realize I needed a Ph.D. to work a coke machine. Thank goodness our rocket scientist son was with us and he got his poor technophobe mom with a dislike for touch screens of any kind, her coveted cherry coke. Oh, and by the way, I read that aerospace engineers (i.e., rocket scientists) helped invent the Freestyle dispenser. Yeah, really. Now that made me laugh.
Every place I go that has these machines always has just one machine. And there is always a line because there’s too many decisions. You stand there and wait while people “figure out their flavor.” And then you actually have to get the darn thing to work. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t think the coke in these freestyle machines tastes the same. I’ve always wondered if it’s all coming out the same dispenser, then isn’t some of the drink that the person ahead of me just chose coming out in my cup too? Is that why it never tastes right to me?
So that night at Zaxby’s when I realized I was going to be getting my ice from the Freestyle machine (I can handle getting ice), I had to get behind the elderly gentleman who bless his heart, stood at the machine trying to simply get a coke. When I realized he was having trouble, I immediately broke out in a sweat thinking that I might have to offer him some assistance (talk about the blind leading the blind). He fidgeted with the machine for a minute, pressing more buttons than a pilot in the cockpit of a 747. Turns out the machine was just OUT of coke as hubby informed me it had “told” him that minutes earlier when a screen had popped up telling him to make another selection. The elderly gentlemen then decided on Dr. Pepper and after a couple of minutes, he finally succeeded. He turned around and shaking his head with eyes wide, I heard him sigh in relief. I smiled and told him I always have trouble getting drinks from “these type” machines too and if truth be known, I usually had to get my son to get my drink for me. He smiled and then confessed that he usually had his daughter operate it for him! We had a good laugh and went on our way.
I’ve given up soft drinks since first coming across the Coca Cola Freestyle machines in that Firehouse Subs. I hear the Freestyle dispensers are a big hit with the teenagers who love the design concept. I realized the other night that I must be getting old because I let a coke machine give me anxiety. Lord, help me.