Higgins: Soda jerkWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of you reading this will only understand the term “soda jerk” in the context of old movies, since there are now few places around the country where real “sodas” are served. Likewise the combination of short-order cook and dessert dispenser that was the original purveyor of these sugary drinks into which carbonation was “jerked” (hence the name) has long since followed the dinosaur to extinction. The boroughs of New York City were once one of the havens of this carbonated confection, where the 10- to 12-ounce version was standard, but the 16-ounce “sharable” size also found favor with dating couples.
And so it now somehow seems sadly appropriate that New York’s Mayor Bloomberg should lead the charge in proposing a ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces and dooming the largest species of its distantly-related descendant to a similar fate. It’s also fitting that this mayor should lead the charge in yet another government regulatory overreach. After all, Mayor Bloomberg has already successfully banned smoking in restaurants, bars, public buildings, parks and rented apartments (and boy’s bathrooms); as well banning the use of trans fats in the city’s restaurants and fast food establishments. His prohibitory credentials thereby established, the fact that he proposed this latest embargo the day before celebrating National Doughnut Day with a press release and a city proclamation only adds to the delicious irony of this proposed injunction and the logical inconsistency of this mayor’s efforts to protect citizens from themselves.
Such shortsighted regulatory efforts often carry with them numerous legal ramifications, better known as “laws of unintended consequences.” This next noble effort to fix the growing obesity issue of his city seems likely to suffer the same fate. Having attempted to starve citizens of problems related to large sugary drinks, he will probably find himself feeding what is probably the even-faster growing problem of waste disposal in the Big Apple (puns intended). I for one don’t recall a lot of landfill space in Manhattan to deal with what will undoubtedly become an increase in the number of smaller drink containers that will need to be dealt with as refuse. Likewise, more cups will mean more plastic lids and plastic straws, products not only created from petroleum products in relatively short supply, but ones that are not biodegradable and will continue to pollute the planet for generations to come.
Of course waste (excepting of course, government waste), is a problem that Mayor Bloomberg is probably not particularly well acquainted with (at least until the next time the sanitation workers go on strike). As one of the richest people in the United States, it hardly seems likely that he spent much time taking out the trash; and one would assume that as mayor he has gained no additional experience in this area. (In fact, doing so would likely have seen a union grievance filed against him.) It seems plausible to believe that he’s only marginally acquainted with the fact that the much of the waste created in NYC has long been shipped for disposal in New Jersey. Of course it’s entirely possible that Mayor Bloomberg has a long-term plan to similarly deal with the disappointing results of this and previous efforts to get NYC to shape up, and simply expects to ship the morbidly obese population of his fair city to the Garden State. (Based on the size of its current governor, Chris Christie, it hardly seems reasonable that they would be turned away).
Now it’s also possible that the mayor’s efforts will achieve some level of success, even if unintentionally. While the inability to purchase a super-size sodas may not have the intended effect on the weight of its residents, it could for example, turn New York into the two-cup-holder-hat capital of the world. Since packaging for such liquid consumables is included in their price, residents forced to purchase multiple beverages could have a positive effect on overall retail revenues in the city generated by their sale (sales tax revenues will no doubt show equally promising increases).
I suspect that as another long hot summer proceeds, however (and global warming takes its inevitable toll on NYC denizens), that it’s likely the difficulties of dealing with such beverage restrictions will result in increasing the already-cantankerous nature of New Yorkers. If volatile residents do not take to the streets in outright rebellion against these onerous and ridiculous restrictions, I suspect that being called the “soda jerk” is the best Mayor Bloomberg has to hope for.