Thursday, June 10, 2010

Look Under the Cap

I come from an age, that will soon, like the Qin Dynasty, be forgotten: the Age of Winning Stuff by Looking Under the Caps of Pop Bottles.

Okay, that's a bit of a mouthful (also, to be honest I've nothing against the Qin Dynasty, I'm sure it will be long remembered, but I needed an old, short lived dynasty to refer to, and that was what Google could come up with... so send your hate-mail to, but that's the world I used to live in.

And what a world it was! You'd bike to your local corner store, kick down the kickstand (though your bike would fall over anyway), and buy a pop and some candy or maybe a bag of chips for... a dollar! Yes, folks, chips and a pop for a dollar... true fact. And the pop you'd choose would be the one with the contest on it, because you knew not only were you buying a pop, but you were buying hope for a brighter future.

It was paradigm shifting, really. No longer were you forced to think about if you would buy a pop, but instead you got to decide what fabulous life-altering prizes you were going to give yourself a chance to peel up. Because, that's what you had to do, folks. You had to peel up the plastic deal (I'm sure it has a name but we never cared) from the inside of the bottle cap.

And once you did - standing beside your fallen bike - peel that liner out of the cap, which by the way was an art form for boys who bit their nails, like I did - once you did, you'd see the words... well, that's just it, you'd see one of several phrases that would either immediately deliver you into the state of Nirvana, or make you wish you were never born. That was it. No kid I knew had a laissez-faire attitude about the deal, it was either all or nothing. And so often it was the latter.

But, ya see, the brutal thing about it was the way you lost. They couldn't just say "you lost" - because that would be final and kind. Instead they tempted you, tempted you with fuzzy English, by saying something like, "Please try again." Which, of course now that I'm older and wiser, I can easily interpret as "thank you for buying our product on the off-chance that you'd actually win something, but as you well know, we'd go out of business if we gave away too many things, so we're asking you kindly to support our business some more buy buying additional units of our product in hopes of winning something you are clearly not destined for."

But! What we saw in those words when we were kids was, "Right, it took you five minutes to peel this sucker out, now stick it back in and try it again, and these letters might just magically change and you'll actually win that Atari 2600 you've always wanted!" So, after standing outside the store for twenty minutes and seeing the same message for the fourth time, we kinda got the point that we were losers and there wasn't much else we could do but ride home, much like Attila as he left Rome (sans the tribute).

Then there was a righteous change in the ways. One day, I entered my store, not bothering to use the kickstand, leaving my BMX discarded to the side of the door, and made my way to the trusty sliding glass doors to attain my favourite beverage, when to by bleary eyes, appeared, as pennies from Heaven, a wholly new type of contest: Collect and Win.

Ah-ha! Take On Me, indeed! I reached past my normal favourites and grasped instead a Coke-a-Cola, then reached down into the 2-Litre section and grabbed the full contest rules and regulations which were noosed around the 2-litre pop bottles in those days, and I read, to wit: you will get one letter under each cap and if you collect these letters to spell "Coke is it!" you could be eligible to win One Million Dollars!

Okay, maybe not "a million" - I can't remember, but it was the biggest prize I recall seeing to that point. The next thing I remember, after weeks of emptied Coke bottles, was me finally collecting "Coke is it"... and nearly passing out. I triple-checked. I had it. I was so frikkin' happy!

And then as I was spreading my joy with others, I heard the news: you also had to have the exclamation point. "What!!!!!!!!?" I cried in coincidentally punctuated disbelief. I had to find out for sure, so I rode breakneck back to the store, tossed my BMX aside as I burst in - beelining for the 2-litre Cokes - grabbed a noose, and stared in dejected belief: it was a true fact. I was done. I had failed. I was once again: a loser.

Did I become a better person? Nope.
Did I learn an important, life altering, lesson? Nope.
Can I laugh about it now? Do ya hear me laughin'? Nope, you don't.

So what, then?

That day I made a choice, the choice of a New Generation.

Because, honestly, revenge is a dish best served sweet.