The old man and the lady

At the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, Georgia, visitors get a nice introduction to the history of Coke, from John Pemberton’s times when the drink still contained cocaine and was used as medicine to present day when Coke (and Diet Coke, and Coke Zero) can be found anywhere and everywhere. 

At the beginning of the tour, there’s a sign that drums up the mystique around the famous brand. The formula of Coke is compared to, for example, the mystery of the pyramids. “Who built the pyramids? What IS the secret formula of Coke?” it says. 

Life is full of mysteries but unlike the PR people at Coca-Cola would like you to believe, mysteries and secrets are not the same thing. When something is a secret, somebody does hold the correct answer, but a mystery may be impossible to explain.

I don’t know whether the man knew the difference. I don’t know whether he had been thinking about it for long, or whether he just acted on a spur of the moment, inspired by what he saw as he walked by the gelateria a moment ago. 

I don’t know what he expected to hear, if anything. I don’t know whether he had gathered a lot of data before, or what his hypothesis on the topic was. I don’t know anything about his research methods. All I know is that he came walking down the sidewalk, with long strides, like a man on a mission, but at the same time, with no specific destination and that the white plastic bag ion his hand swung from side to side as he walked. 

A few steps before he reached my table, he slowed down, which made me pay attention to him. Instead of addressing me, he walked past my table and stopped at the one behind me. 

I don’t know what he wanted to do with the information, or whether it all was deep-rooted in personal experience (or more likely, the lack there of), but the next thing I heard was the white-haired man’s hoarse voice as he spoke. 

“How does it feel to be beautiful?” he asked the young woman. 

She laughed. 

“Heh, pretty nice,” she replied, and took a sip of her Coke Zero. 

One step closer to solving a mystery, and the plastic bag swinging more than before, the man continued his walk. Not a bad day, not a bad day at all.

How does that make you feel?