Atlanta, Feb. 8, 1997
Sex and Coke in the big Southern city
Well, Saturday was exciting. Left London about noon local time on my way to Atlanta via Dulles. This trip was business class and it was the first time I've sat with those little personal television screens. Pretty cool overall to watch my own choice of six channels. Of course, there was nothing worth seeing on any of them. Read my books, did my email, finished writing up my trip notes.
In Dulles I spent time in the Red Carpet Lounge, again a far cry over traveling coach. I had such a bad time with jet lag in London that I'd sworn off alcohol for this trip. Too bad, it's all free at the Red Carpet. The Atlanta plane was a turnaround and the horizontal snow slowed them down so I had an extra hour to kill. I don't know why United doesn't tell anyone about this until the last minute. I had left the comfort of the Lounge and had my butt in a cramped gateway seat before the announcement came.
Quick 90 minutes to Atlanta, claim my new blue luggage, and I'm at the Hertz Gold board looking for a name that doesn't appear. Shit. Another 30 minutes with Hertz and I'm in a car, driving through the airport; I haven't slept for 20 hours at this point. Not a problem, the hotel is only 30 freeway minutes away. Unless you count the fact that I got lost, then it's 45 minutes.
I turned on the charm at the front desk, chatting pleasantly with the clerk about her husband's job, seemingly to no avail. But, as I turned to go she said, "maybe I should put you in another room. The one I gave you was just converted to non-smoking last week and might still smell of smoke." Ok with me. Up the elevator, down a long hallway and I'm in my very large room. Not quite a suite, but about the size of three normal hotel rooms. Ahhh.
It's 10PM, my email system was able to mix spit with the home office and I figure I'll watch a bit of TV until I fall asleep. The Crowne Plaza has SpectraVision so when the TV comes on I see the previews. Ransom is playing and I've wanted to see that so I push the menu button and the blue screen comes up. "Hello James Schrempp, make a choice." It's not clear which menu choice is the one for movie selection so I try "hotel services." "Hotel services is temporarily unavailable." Oh. "Guest services." "Guest services are temporarily unavailable." Oh. Maybe I don't know what I'm doing. I better get the SpectraVision card from the top of the TV. "Please wait for free TV" and up comes some dumb ass Atlanta broadcast.
Well the SV card says I can get to the movies via channel 88. So I go to channel 88. Same blue screen, but without my name. And the menu choices don't have numbers next to them, just little boxes where the numbers should be. Oh well. "Please wait for free TV" is on again and just as I'm about to pull the plug the screen blinks and I'm presented with two naked breasts, a hand, and what I believe is bath soap. Yeow! This lasts for about a minute, the TV set beeps and I'm back to the preview channel.
Hmmm. Free TV. Channel 88. Wait a minute. Nudity. Cool.
I want to call the desk to let them know there's a problem but I feel the engineering need to fully understand the symptoms of the failure before I call. The base failure (or success) mode is Free TV, Channel 88, wait a second, then every thirty seconds or so hit the channel change button. The TV beeps but stays with the XXX movies. Cool.
After a while I call the front desk, and tell them that I'm having trouble using the SpectraVision.
"Oh I'm sorry sir, our SpectraVision isn't working today."
"No, our server lost contact with the satellite."
"Oh, so it's not working at all?"
"No sir, not at all."
"Well then I'll just have to watch whatever else is on."
"Yes sir. I'm really sorry sir."
I really love digital failures.
Cheers from Atlanta,
Atlanta, Feb. 8th
The tube is still spitting out triple x movies for free, but I got a little tired of it all and decided to go out for some air. The MARTA (BART) stop is a few blocks from the hotel so I jumped on down to Five Points for the Atlanta Underground (shopping) and the Coca-Cola museum.
Approaching the museum I'm faced with a giant skeletal world with a twenty foot Coke cap stuffed in the center. To get to the point of paying my $6.00 to get in I have to pass directly under this effigy. Inside is just incredible. A tastefully presented two floors of Coke memorabilia tells the story from 1890 on. Old advertising signs, bottling machines, soda fountains, bottles, cans, pictures; everything is here. Their bottles from around the world, organized in alphabetical order from Aruba to Yemen, puts my meager collection to shame.
Kiosks are sprinkled here and there which offer Coke trivia games or a choice of some period of history to bring alive. Each kiosk looks like a ten foot tall Coke can. To see the presentation one has to stand actually inside the perimeter of the can as if becoming one with the soda. Here and there are roped off pieces of Coke inspired folk art. Apparently Coke sponsored regional competitions for local artists to interpret a Coke bottle six feet high. There's the one from Java that is rendered in green lava. Thailand's representative is in a rare tropical wood. The one from Guatemala is constructed of pottery and opens up to reveal a series of dioramas of religious significance. In the same way little doors might open on a small shrine to a god, they have doored the bottle and shown a manger with two Coke cans strewn about. I don't think most visitors see the irony.
The museum has three theaters. One gives a quick five minute orientation to the history of Coke. Another is an enclosed theater showing a ten minute, high definition digital (the only one in Atlanta) music video of people in native costumes horking down a bottle of coke. I was most fascinated with the third. It's a small alcove with about 20 bench seats showing a continuous 23 minute loop of selected Coke TV advertisements. They're shown in chronological order, each set of four or five documenting one advertising theme. It's the real thing. Coke is it.
I approached this third theater slowly, watching the other tourists mesmerized by the ads. One woman was mouthing the words, "I'd like to teach the world to sing..." Almost everyone is swaying to the beat; a solid testimony to the power of this consumer attention grabber. I'm standing near the back of the open theater where I can see others enter the larger room, hear the trilling ads playing softly from the side of the room, and slowly spiral in to the web.
I watch one couple where she wants to come right over and he's resisting. He has a look of disgust on his face, that kind of man-look where he's interested but doesn't want to show it. As he gets closer he starts to smile and they take a seat, humming the current tune.
I turn my attention to the screen as 1985 comes to life. An ad of some inner city kids harmonizing a tune. Then there's the Mean Joe Green ad with the little kid. One I haven't seen before of a woman who feigns a flat tire on her... my god, I've been sucked in! Un-believable. I was planning on remaining the observer and now I'm singing along with the rest. No wonder the Coke bottle is the number one recognized commercial icon world wide.
Near the end of the tour I enter a darkened room with neon lights, odd futuristic sound effects, and a series of strange looking soft drink dispensers. Step up to one, pick up a plastic cup, set it under the dispenser head and the fun begins. A light on my stand blinks, a throbbing sound picks up, a water cannon shoots a few thick streams into a receiver behind my cup and a measured amount of Coke plops into my cup. It's as if the Coke has just been manufactured and thrown into my cup. Imagine the cacophony in here as all ten stations get going at once; all Coking to their own beat. And in the background are gleeful shrieks from young girls and amazed tots. Pretty powerful way to end the tour.
The last room is big and quiet. There's some talking, but here drinking is the plan. The company has set up a row of 30 soft drink dispensers typical of any self-serve soda bar. Each one is labeled with a different, weird drink from around the world. Pear soda, Lichee, Lemon, Tutti-Frutti, Strawberry, Pineapple, Bitters from Italy. I sample maybe five. I want to try more but just can't stomach even little sips any more.
I leave behind softly speaking groups whispering about these new flavors in many different languages. Down some stairs I think I'm out, but instead I have to navigate through a store selling the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia anywhere. Bottle openers, t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, bar glasses, soda glasses, Christmas ornaments, leather jackets, I can't begin to list all that is here. Many people have picked up shopping baskets and are merrily filling them with a hundred dollar purchase. I guess you never know when you'll be able to come back.
I rate the attraction a 4 out of 5. They claim to get 1,000,000 visitors a year. By all means, get to the museum when you're in Atlanta.
But is this all for the day? No. I'm heading back through the Underground, on my way home when I pass a Hooters restaurant. Hooters, home of the cute owl motif. Hooters, by their own advertising, "delightfully tacky." Stepping through the door I am immediately accosted by a group of slimy women in dirty t-shirts and dull orange running shorts.
"Hi guy, come on in. Take any table you want" the chicks almost yell at me.
Hooters. A false tin roof on the inside, high tables with bar stools; low tables with low bar stools. Everyone is sitting on a stool. A lot of the lighting comes from extra large Christmas tree lights that are strung everywhere. Very festive I'm sure. The crowd is a pleasant mix of couples and groups of young men. There are several families with small children in for lunch.
In keeping with the mystique, the waitresses all have bare midriffs, too tight orange shorts (more like smooth petti-pants really) and used-to-be-white t-shirts. Unfortunately, most are the gray, off-white color that comes from washing too many times in cold water. My waitress seems to be missing a tooth. One blonde is busty enough to be popping out the top of her low cut shirt, but overall this doesn't live up to the calendars' promise. The waitresses are almost eager to pose for photos with the customers and several women take souvenir pictures of their dates with a brace of these broads. On the walls are industrial signs, their messages redirected in this atmosphere; "Caution, Slippery When Wet" and "Danger, Pinch Point" are staring me in the face.
My slab-o-ribs comes covered with a BBQ sauce. The first bite slows me down. I remember back when I was just out of college and finally making enough money to buy red meat. A teriyaki steak is good if marinated for 20 minutes, why not try 48 hours? As everyone who has tried this discovers, the meat turns to mush. Too much marinating and the structure of the meat is gone, only a pabulum of formerly well structured protein remains. That's what these ribs were. It's like eating wet toilet paper that has been formed around some bones. Ugh. At least the French fries are hot and crisp.
I now see that just off to the side of the entrance several waitresses recline on stools reading magazines and newspapers with an air of boredom. Most have a cigarette burning out in an ashtray. Whenever an all male group comes in the front door they yell out "Hi guys, come on in"; that same yell which startled me. It does propel those who are just looking to move further into the building so that they're committed to eating here. The whole set up strikes me as a stylized bordello.
One last note before I leave you... Fat Tuesday Restaurant. Another Underground wonder. This may not even serve much food; this is a daiquiri bar. Lining the wall behind the simple bar are twelve slurpy machines, each loaded and labeled with a different daiquiri mix. Strawberry, Lemon, Pineapple, Cherry, and mixes of them all. An interesting place to sample, but my nose is starting to run, I'm feeling old, so it's time to take the MARTA back to my safe and sane hotel. Besides, I have to get back before the SpectraVision gets fixed.
I'm on the road so you don't have to be,
P.S. I was in Atlanta for five days. I found the SpectraVision XXX issue on the first day of my stay. It remained that way for all five days. Five full days of malfunctioning TV spewing out [pun intended] porn to anyone who tried to watch a pay-per-view movie.
Now I think a lot of people watch pay-per-view movies. I also think that means a lot of people in the hotel were seeing free porn. What would have happened if one, just one, of those people called the front desk and said, "I'm seeing porn on my TV and I don't want it" ? I think the hotel management would rip the power cord out of that malfunctioning satellite system. If that didn't work the Atlanta hotel management would have hammered the TV distribution system apart with an axe.
Since the free XXX lasted five days, I have to imagine that no one called the front desk to complain. Sure, they might have called and had some fun with the front desk staff the way I did. But they didn't complain. All those people in the hotel with porn pouring out and no one complained? Interesting indeed.
Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)
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