So I’m in my office yesterday, returned from my trip to Stinking Bakersfield which turned out to be a huge waste of time. I’ve got a twelve-pack of diet grapefruit-flavored soda* in the office’s refrigerator and I’ve taken one out to drink because, well, I’m thirsty. As I’m reading the e-mail that has accumulated over the course of the morning and early afternoon, one of the office assistants walks in my office.
“TL? Is that you who has that diet soda in the fridge?”
“Yes. You can have one if you like.”
“God, no! That stuff will kill you! You shouldn't drink it!”
As it turns out, this is not the time to be confronting me about my dietary choices. “Excuse me?”
“It’s going to rot you out from the inside!” she cries, as though I had been drinking a can of carbonated Windex.
“Okay. Thanks for your concern.”
But she didn’t get the hint. “I’m just so opposed to artificial sweeteners and what they do to people.”
“Well, I’m overweight enough as it is. I don’t need the extra 150 calories in a sugar-sweetened soda and I didn't feel like a glass of water.”
“The sugar would be better for you than that stuff. What’s in that, aspartame?”
“Ooooh. Splenda.” The word “Splenda” was spoken the same way one might say “Osama bin Laden.” No, strike that -- it was said with more venom than one would reserve for Osama these days. “That stuff’s bad, too. You know what happened when they gave Splenda to lab rats?”
“Hmm. ‘Alex, I'll take what is liver cancer for $100.’”
“I'm serious. You shouldn't joke about this.”
“Just a chance I’m going to have to take, I guess. I’ve, ah, I’ve got to get back to work, here.”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Then she withdrew, feeling like she’d been chased out of my office by an ingrate. Which I guess she was.
But really, what did she expect? Even if I’d been in a better and friendlier mood (I hope I was at least minimally polite) did she really think I would have had a spontaneous, quasi-religious food conversion because some lab rat got cancer when it was injected with its body weight in sucralose?
* Yes, I drink diet grapefruit soda and still self-identify as a heterosexual male. Sometimes you just don’t want a cola and I think grapefruit tastes good, okay?