These are frantic days for the man the Manhattan tabloids call the Soda Jerk. Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, is reviewing his troops, readying the SWAT teams for his campaign to beat back the crime wave sweeping over Gotham.
The mayor begins enforcement of his new rules about how much soda is good for a New Yorker on March 12, vowing to take neither prisoner nor excuse. Hizzoner wants to be remembered as the mayor who stopped the gulping, slurping and burping that threatened to make Gotham unfit for human habitation. Gotham was in fact unfit for habitation not so long ago. Then Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani cleaned up the city, chased the crooks and thugs to wherever they went, probably New Jersey, wiped away most of the graffiti and washed the dirt off the face of the city that never sleeps.
Mr. Bloomberg wants to be remembered as the mayor who swiped Mary Poppins’ bloomers and became nanny to the world. The soda smackdown follows earlier campaigns against sins of the palate — New Yorkers were eating too much sugar, salt, fats, cigarettes. Even babies were guilty. The New York Post surveyed the battlefield of today and reports that hizzoner is after a lot more than an 18-ounce container of Coke, Pepsi and other drinks he deems too sweet.
“If you order a pizza,” the Post reports, “you cannot get a large bottle of soda delivered with it. Already, Domino’s locations across the city are doing away with 1- and two-liter bottles of soda. … They’ll sell smaller bottles instead, costing you more money and increasing plastic waste.”
Pizza restaurants typically charge $3 for a two-liter bottle of Coke or Pepsi, the Post says, and after March 12 a customer will have to buy six 12-ounce cans for $7.50. This will put a crimp in a lot of family occasions, but that’s a sacrifice the mayor, a billionaire, is willing to make.
An anonymous blogger has put together a comparison of what life in America was like before the mayor and his ilk came to make things tedious and tiresome for the rest of us. You don’t have to be a geezer to appreciate the simpler life in the days before the nannies arrived. These scenarios of past and present illustrate.
Only yesterday, Jack pulls into the parking lot at Happy Valley High, in from an early-morning quail hunt, and his shotgun is proudly displayed in the gun rack in the rear window. The vice principal walks over to admire the gun (much as Joseph R. Biden might have done), and goes to his car to get his own shotgun out of the trunk. He and Jack compare guns, talk of bird hunts, and put them away when the bell rings.
Fast forward to Not-so-Happy Valley High, circa 2013. Jack’s grandson pulls into the parking lot with his shotgun showing in the gun rack. Lockdown! Someone calls the cops. The FBI arrives to arrest Jack. He spends two days in jail and never sees his truck or gun again.
Scenario Two: Fred wakes up with a headache, takes a small bottle of aspirin from the medicine chest and when he arrives at school his pal Jerry has a headache, too. Fred gives him two aspirin and within an hour they’re both OK.
Fast forward again: Fred’s grandson, also named Fred, is not so lucky. He has a headache, too, and takes a bottle of aspirin to school, circa 2013, and when his friend Glenn complains of pain in his knee he gives him an aspirin. The teacher sees it, calls the principal, who calls the cops. Fred is thrown out of school, charged with dealing drugs.
Or consider what happened to Francisco when he flunked English on the eve of graduation day at Venice High in the long ago. Having recently arrived from Mexico, he was allowed to graduate on his promise to make it up in summer school. He went on to college and became an astronaut.
His nephew Pedro, newly arrived from Quintana Roo in 2013, flunks English, too. He sues the teacher, the principal and the school, arguing that requiring a knowledge of English to graduate is racist. The ACLU joins the suit; Pedro wins. He gets his diploma by court order and English is taken out of the core curriculum. Pedro mows lawns for a living because he cannot speak English and cannot get a job.
Nothing like this can happen, of course. Not in New York, anyway. The Soda Jerk will guarantee it.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.