Monday, June 26, 2017

The World of Coca-Cola and Other Atlanta Tourist Traps

one of my favorite rooms in the entire world

n 2003, when I was eight years old, my family toured the South.  Because we only had ten days to see whatever it was that we saw, we almost certainly missed things of relative significance in the region, but I don't know anyone who isn't forced by time constraints to prioritize from among the various tourist attractions at any given vacation destination. My parents first had to decide what cities to visit during our trip.  

Atlanta was a city both of my parents really wanted to see.  We almost didn't see it, though, because one of my father's sisters was living there with her family at the time. None of us wanted to waste any of our precious ten days visiting with my Aunt Claudine and Uncle Virl and however many of their eight obnoxious children had made it to Earth at that point. The decision was ultimately made to visit Atlanta but to do so on the down-low. No one in my father's family was to be told that we visited Atlanta, as the result likely would have involved the hyper-sensitive Claudine taking it personally and having to go back on anti-depressant medication. (Someday I'll get around to sharing the disastrous situations that eventuated from Matthew and me having been told to keep our visit to Atlanta a secret.)

Atlanta was one of the more eventful sites we hit on that trip. I don't remember everything we saw while there, but I do recall going to Centennial Olympic Park, attending an Atlanta Braves' game, touring CNN's studios, touring Margaret Mitchell's house and museum (my mother's payback for having to sit through an Atlanta Braves game), visiting the College Football Hall of Fame (my dad's payback for having to endure the visit to the Margaret Mitchell attraction), touring the Jimmy Carter library and museum, and seeing a Martin Luther King memorial site of some sort.  We skipped out on a reportedly fairly large aquarium there, as my parents concluded that we have perfectly good aquariums on California and it would be silly to travel three thousand miles to look at an aquarium. We always visited the state capitol building of any state capital we happened to be in, so we did a brief and uneventful self-guided tour there. 

I'm not either sure how many states I've actually traveled to or how many state capital buildings I've seen, but the one thing my tours of state capitols have taught me is just how much alike they all look, both inside and out, and what an utter waste of time it is to drag children through those buildings. In my mind it's all one giant tour, with the only one that I've visited noticeably different from the others being Hawaii's capitol building in Honolulu. Even the Alaska capitol looked a whole like all the rest I've seen.  If you are a parent and are planning any trips in the near future that may involve state capitol buildings, take my advice: ditch the state capitol tours.  Visit your own state capitol if your local school district doesn't schedule a field trip there, but those of the other states' buildings are a waste of your kids' time. 

One destination my parents couldn't have skipped out on without having my brother and me pitch major hissy fits was the World of Coca-Cola, as we had heard about the tasting room from cousins who had been there. I don't remember a great deal about the actual tour, but the tasting room at the end filled with machines dispensing [I think] 100 different kinds of soda was, in and of itself, my dream vacation.  We didn't have a whole lot of soda around when Matthew and I were little. It must have been in the house, and my parents probably drank it on the sly, but it was well concealed. We had soda when we went out for meals or were traveling, or for really special occasions like birthdays, but as far as day-to-day consumption of it was concerned, it didn't happen.

My parents decided not to attempt to regulate what we drank in the tasting room.  My dad had a great time drinking the really exotic stuff. I don't remember exactly what was offered, and the Coca-Cola people apparently change it up regularly, but there seemed to be a lot of tropical fruit-flavored sodas there. I recall there being a kiwi-flavored drink. My mom wouldn't try half of the sodas my dad thought were marvelous, but he's always been more adventurous than the rest of us.

I wasted my parents' money, my dad said, because I wouldn't try anything new that day. I had a bit of orange soda, then drank all I wanted of the regular Coke and Barq's root beer. I'm not sure how much soda I consumed. It filled me up but didn't, if I recall correctly, make my stomach hurt.

Matthew wouldn't drink the weird-ass stuff my dad was drinking, but he more than made up for it in sheer volume of Sprite, Coke, root beer, and Fanta orange soda that he drank. We bypassed the gift shop on the way out, which turned out to be a good thing. As soon as we reached the light of day through the exit doors, Matthew bolted for an area of plants between the sidewalks and immediately began puking his guts out. He must have thrown up steadily for two consecutive minutes. I remember him barely being able to catch his breath between barfs. My dad had to move him twice because he had filled up the planter area and it was over-flowing onto the sidewalk. I couldn't even guess at the total volume of fluid he expelled, but it was to the point that my parents were feeling nervous that he might have done serious damage to his gastric system and somewhat guilty about their decision to let him drink as much as he wanted.

Then, as quickly as Matthew had started vomiting, he stopped. It was as if nothing had happened. My mom took his shirt off of him because it had sustained collateral damage, and I would assume his sneakers received some splatter as well, but he was otherwise perfectly fine as he walked to our car in the parking garage. That night he ate a normal dinner and never had another moment of discomfort. I, on the other hand, could not be persuaded to eat any dinner that night. The soda had been more than enough, and my parents weren't about to force the issue and have any sort of a repeat of Matthew's exhibition.


  1. We used to live near Atlanta and we never managed to visit the World of Coca-Cola. Sounds like we really missed out. ;-)

    1. I am probably biased, because I really like soda, but for a kid, there's probably nothing much better than being in a room with almost any kind of soda you would ever want to drink and having unlimited access.

  2. Kids never forget barfing incidents.

    1. Yep. It's in some ways even more memorable if it was someone else who barfed. did you ever see the movie "Stand By Me" or read the Stephen King novella? He perfectly captured preadolescence when the boys were all begging the future author to tell their favorite story he'd made up, and it was, of course, the one about the eating contest and the subsequent barforama.