Chocolate Soda

This is just an observation; I haven’t quite processed it or thought about it in any deeper or more meaningful way. Perhaps I am still in shock.

If one has been in and around New York City, chances are one will see many an unusual sight. Couples sleeping on the sidewalk, tangled arms and legs, oblivious to the sounds of a waking city, people stoned out of their minds or drunk and wildly gesticulating, pointing fingers at everyone. These are sights one has come to expect and ignore without even a single, slightly raised eyebrow. Nothing can shock a New Yorker they say and they are mostly right. But just when you think you are at your cynical best you see a sight so strange that the only reaction you can summon is an unending stare of complete incredulity.

I was waiting for my bus at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, getting ready to go home. Saw the same people and faces all around and casually glanced at a man who looked somewhat down and out and was waiting on a bench. His grocery store plastic bag was lying on the floor. I first noted it because there were Oreo cookie crumbs scattered all around the bag, on the floor. I remember thinking what a messy guy he was. And then I looked away.

20 minutes went by, the bus still hadn’t arrived and my restless eyes once again turned toward the man on the bench. This time he was eating a chocolate bar, nothing unusual about eating a chocolate bar. So I turned away once again, trying to concentrate on the music strains filling my ears through my headphones. And I waited and waited and decided it was time to glance at my watch again. The bus still hadn’t arrived. Naturally, in my restlessness I caught sight of the man again. This time the floor was littered with 5 half eaten chocolate bars. The man was busy rummaging though his plastic bag. He pulled out a 20 oz. Bottle of Coca Cola Classic and emptied exactly half of it in a swig. He then pulled out a 20 oz. Bottle of Iced tea and did the same. Next came a similar bottle of Slice and he did the same thing. This went on until he had a collection of half-finished soda bottles neatly arrayed on the floor in front of him. The bus was only of limited interest now. Every passenger in my line wanted to see what he would do next. He was engrossed, intent and showed a single-mindedness that was enviable. He then reached for his bag of Oreo cookies again. He started breaking each one into tiny little pieces and proceeded to push each broken piece through the narrow neck of the bottle. Eventually he had emptied two bags of Oreos into his Coke bottle. Once the cookie bags were empty, he reached for his half eaten chocolate bars. The process was the same, he broke the bar into little pieces and kept packing them first into his bottle of Coke, then into his bottle of Iced tea and finally into his Slice.

What was this man doing? My brain was screaming, silent glances were being exchanged with fellow travelers and several heads were being shaken in complete disgust. There was enough sugar in those bottles to send anyone into a complete diabetic coma! Did he intend to consume these frightening concoctions at a later time? Was this a novel hunger management solution? Did he plan to consume enough calories for the rest of his life? Was he headed for a deserted island? Or was it the cure for withdrawal symptoms from some drug?

The man was unperturbed by our stares, we were scarred for life. Even the sight of chocolate bars has nauseated me over the last couple of days. An unforgettable image, a sad image, one that makes you wonder about lives and preoccupations other than yours.


  1. You are right. This has to be classified as 'weird' with a capital W. So what did your fellow travellers say about this man?

  2. They all appeared stunned and in shock and couldn't say much beyond shaking their heads at the sight. Then the bus arrived!When I say "scarred for life" I mean it, though. I have repeatedly refused things like candy bars, chocolate croissants and Coke!Pragya

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