Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Witz Pickz: Sparks

I have eight packs of Sparks in my fridge and that's not a metaphor. It might be by the time this weekend is over. Back in September, Sparks had a number of lawsuits brought against them (MillerCoors) for both health and marketing reasons (both obvious-- fast + slow = heart attacks, and it was marketed as an energy drink...with alcohol...). Now, they have decided to either pull their product from shelves or eliminate the caffeine from their product. I guess they decided something ridiculous like mixing 6-7% alcohol with caffeine and taurine wasn't a good idea-- and by "decided" I mean, "combined extensive research of the product's ingredients with sound, reasonable logic and came to a completely appropriate conclusion."

Only this is America, and if we want to combine our uppers with our downers, we shouldn't have to buy two products. America is the home of the 2 for 1 deal and the 2 in 1 product. Take shampoo and conditioner for example. Shampoo makes my hair really frizzy. Conditioner makes my hair really soft. An "upper" and a "downer." Opposites, but they sell that in a 2 in 1 bottle. It's just like Sparks.

But this isn't just another post about Sparks and their lawsuit-- it's about's always about shame:

Last night, My Friend Formerly With A Pool and I wandered into Safeway before my soccer game. My goal? To buy one Powerade. That's it. Except, right next to the cold drinks section was the alcohol section, and right at the edge of that alcohol section was SPARKS (which I guess sort of proves the point about it being marketed like a regular energy drink to underage kids). The Safeway by my house was completely out of Sparks, and all of my friends have had trouble finding any-- there is only a limited supply left in stores with "the original recipe" intact. "SPARKS!" I declared, like advertisers imagined a tween in search of tasty alcoholic beverages would. "SPARKS PARTY!" My Friend Formerly With A Pool proclaimed, which a) does sound like a singles mixer b) does sound like a homosexual singles mixer c) is still a great idea. We then proceeded to pull all of the Sparks Plus (the plus stands for heart disease) off the shelf and put it in a hand basket while a semi-grizzled man watched us and laughed softly. "We're never gonna sleep again," I told him (hm, see aforementioned "b"). "We're gonna need another basket," we decided.

We then went ahead and filled a second hand-basket with four-packs of Sparks. We cleaned them out. Unfortunately, we hadn't finished shopping, so we then wandered throughout the entire store holding our bounty. What else did we buy besides 8 packs of Sparks? Two vitamin waters. We considered buying some condoms or asking if they sold ecstasy, just to top off the absurdity of the purchase.

Walking to checkout, I saw a slightly shorter line and stepped into it, My Friend Formerly With A Pool close by.

"Line's back here, guy!" came a voice from behind us. I turned around and saw some guy with a shopping cart, leaving room in the aisle for people to go by. I instinctively apologized, but what I was really thinking was that I should raise my basket with 16 cans of Sparks in it and say, "You really wanna fuck with me, bro?" (Sparks Plus where the plus stands for being brutally beaten with your own torn off limbs) Instead, the guy added, "Too good to be true, huh?" referring to the length of the line. I glanced around at the other lines which were all roughly the same length. Douchebag. If only he'd met me when I had been drinking Sparks, and therefore been prone to, "more drunk driving, more injuries, and more sexual assault."

Getting into another line, we began the long, awkward wait. "Oh shiiiiiit!" I whispered, as I realized something important-- I didn't have my ID. I'd left it at home in the pocket of my jeans. I couldn't buy Sparks. Suddenly, we weren't even just two mid-twenty year old dudes buying 32 cans of Sparks. We were those underage guys with one ID between them, pretending not to know each other so they could buy a drink allegedly marketed for teens. Many many eyes were upon us or at least it felt that way. As we neared the checker, my fears were allayed by my racism, when I saw that the girl looked "Off-the-boat-asian." We got up to the register:

"Ok, ID?" She asked. I wasn't wrong....still probably racist...
"Here you go," MFFWAP said as I hung back, just another customer giggling at the customer in front of him...
"K," she said, ringing him up. "Safeway card?"
"I don't have one..." he said.
"Wait, I do!" helpful customer behind Guy Buying Too Much Sparks chimed in (that's me).
"Too late," she snapped. Wait for it...
"But those Sparks are onsale for like, six bucks..." Curiously over-interested and fiscally aggressive customer in the on-deck circle replied. The checker looked at me, questioning my involvement. I froze. "I'm just saying, I have a card..." I waited as her eyes scanned me for deceit, just waiting for her to ask for my ID, thus ending our dream of a Sparks Party.
"Too late," she told us, and turned away. The Sparks was ours.

While we had been in line, slowly sauntering forward, customers in other lines had looked over at our baskets and smiled, shaking their heads. As we left the store with our shopping bags of ill-health, I could still feel their eyes on our backs. If I were to get pulled over on the way home, the police would find me in a station wagon, without a driver's license, with an entire trunk full of Sweet-Tart tasting alcohol. He'd probably charge me with conspiracy to sell to minors-- after all, having more than four Sparks in your posession at any time is suspect, and it's reasonable to assume that you're selling to anxious tweens, just looking to make some bad decisions. I've told stories on this site about being scared by my own back hair. I've told stories about trying to swallow cinnamon and hacking my lungs and sinuses out. I've made mention of how excited I get when I walk into a bathroom and the automatic lights go on just for me. But last night, in the checkout line with armfuls of Sparks, I finally felt shame. It was both an adrenaline rush and super depressing. An upper and a downer. Sparks.

"Maybe Witz Shouldn't Complain About His Immune System Anymore,"

Photos courtesy of Turbo (first) and Nitro (second and third)


JKow said...

Are Turbo and Nitro mourning for their deceased fellow American Gladiator "Sparks" here? (I checked: though it clearly has potential, there was never a Gladiator named Sparks.)

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