Up until one week ago, the Student Publications Building – which is home to The Michigan Daily – had one of the great amenities at this fine University.
When I say amenity I’m not talking about something common like wireless Internet, good advising or even a cafeteria. I’m talking about something so simple, yet so wonderful.
It was a Coke machine that cost just 50 cents per can.
Being a hockey writer and night editor for the sports section, I have spent my fair share of time in this building, especially late at night. And no matter how miserable I was about my writing, that Coke machine would always cheer me up.
The ability to buy two cans of soda (not pop) with just one dollar was enlightening to me. It harkened back to a time where things were so simple — the early nineties.
But one week ago, my good friend, the 50-cent Coke machine, was taken away from me.
In December, the Daily made the decision to stop buying Coca-Cola and other Coke products for the soda machine in support of the campaign against Coke. One week ago – when the Coke finally ran out – the products were replaced with various types of Faygo drinks.
I was furious. Instead of enjoying the smooth taste of a nice Coca-Cola classic, I was being forced to stomach generic Faygo cola. And I barely did stomach that stuff, because it was terrible. Being from the east coast, I had no idea what Faygo even was.
But what really gets me is that my favorite Coke machine in the whole world was changed because of an issue I don’t care about. To add to that, it is about an issue that only a person on the extreme left of the political spectrum would care about. Heretofore, I will call these extremists “super-libs.”
You know exactly who I’m talking about. It’s those select few who give this University the reputation it has around the country. They are the people campaigning in the Diag with those little leaflets. The leaflets that most people only take because they feel bad for the person handing them out in the cold.
These same people are the reason that when I attended a recent Michigan-Michigan State hockey game, the Spartan fans repeatedly chanted “dirty hippies” to our student section.
But this “hippie” reputation at Michigan could not be more wrong. Back in the 1960s, maybe that stereotype was true. Nowadays, the student body is much closer to the center of the political spectrum. But because we have those select few super-libs, we maintain the reputation of being crazy political activists.
Don’t get me wrong, I side with liberals in most political debates. But these super-libs take political conscientiousness to a new level.
I would argue that 80 percent of the student body couldn’t care less about the labor practices of Coca-Cola. I would also argue that the same 80 percent loves to drink Coke products, and have now only become aware of the issue due to the removal of Coke products at the University.
Normal students like these 80 percent don’t have time to campaign in the Diag in order to have their points heard. The super-libs do.
Despite my disdain for the super-libs, I do have to commend them for their persistence. They wanted Coke out of this University and they got what they wanted.
At first these little protests against Coke didn’t bother me. I kind of shrugged it off as super-libs being super-libs. For fun, I get drunk on the weekends. For fun, they protest something.
But through all of their protests against Coke, and its labor practices abroad, the super-libs argument had one major flaw:
It was obvious that they had never experienced the 50-cent Coke machine. I am almost positive that if they had, their views would have changed dramatically.
Now that the super-libs have stolen away my Coke machine, I must take action.
In the days following the removal of Coke products, I tried to start a campaign throughout the Daily to get things back to normal. But this plan fell through. I mean, if you’ve read the opinion section lately, you’ll notice that many of the aforementioned super-libs write for it.
I don’t want to sound defeated, but most people on campus are not really going to fight these super-libs. They have dominated political activism on campus for years. But I have decided I will not back down until my Coke is returned.
Many issues should concern the super-libs more than Coca-Cola’s labor problems.
Being against the war in Iraq matters. Being against the build-up of nuclear weapons matters. Being curious about whether Bush graduated from Yale matters. A can of Coke doesn’t.
I mean, it’s really terrific that these people are concerned about the well-being of exploited workers abroad. But guess what? Right here in Michigan, there are some more immediate problems that you could focus your attention on.
It’s pretty hard not to notice the ridiculous number of homeless people who make their residence on the streets of Ann Arbor. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by when I don’t have to give the uncomfortable “I don’t have any change” response to someone.
And look at the auto industry in the Detroit area. In recent months GM and Ford have laid off countless employees. Maybe these super-libs should pay attention to some of the labor issues in their own neck of the woods.
In the words of one of my elementary school classmates: Mind your own business.
But to be completely honest, most of my qualms with the super-libs involve my favorite Coke machine. I really just want it back because the Faygo I’ve been drinking tastes like garbage.
Giannotto can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org