Pink Elephants and Hot Lemonade


Even though I’ve been my (usual) busy self, I have gotten out of the office here a little bit more recently. And yeah, I’ve run into a number of people who “recognized” me from the TV, including the constantly-drunk very sweet lady who runs the corner store near my (current) apartment, who still calls me “Domnul Vedeta” (Mr. Superstar) every single time I go in there and who, the other night, told me “people in this zone know how to handle celebrities” while giving me a sly wink.

But the other day I was in downtown Unicorn City, on my way to somewhere else, and stopped in a different tiny store for a factory beverage. I was in a hurry and I was feeling guilty because I hate drinking factory beverages – the kind of drinks that are mass-produced by multinational corporations and advertised every 30 seconds on television – and the clerk or owner or whoever he was (of the store, not a multinational corporation) wanted to get into a long conversation and I ended up yelling at him.

Wanting to talk to me about Romania was not the problem – it was the goddamn refrigerator in his store. And it’s nothing unique to that guy or to his store either. It’s been a while since I’ve done some proper traveling outside of Cluj but just about every single shop in this city abuses their refrigerators and frankly I’m sick of it.

What happens is this – Person A decides to open a corner shop or little “food store” and they decide they want to sell factory beverages in their place of business. So they call up the local distributor for Multinational Beverage Corporation (MBC) and a sales rep from MBC shows up and they sign a contract. And every week an MBC distributor shows up and stocks the MBC drinks. And part of the contract is that MBC products must be sold from an MBC-branded refrigerator, which is provided for free so the store owner (almost) always says yes. Why not? Free refrigerator!

The fucking problem though is due to lunatic Romanian “thriftiness” (zgarcie) the store owner always leaves the refrigerator turned off. Sometimes they have the interior lights on but the actual “making things cold” part of the refrigerator is completely off. Apparently not a single rep from MBC cares that their products are being sold at sauna temperatures because they never, ever make the shop owners, who are using a branded refrigerator, turn the damn things on.

Now I realize Romanians don’t really like cold drinks very often and sometimes think that if drinks are too cold it can make you ill and all of that. Believe me, I get it. But refrigerators have been around for 100 years and it’s possible to adjust the temperature so that what is inside is only a little cold. So it’s utter and total bullshit that these refrigerators cannot be turned on to spare poor little sensitive Romanians from the icy death of a cold drink.

Secondly, the drinks inside an unplugged refrigerator are not even “room temperature”. Fresh air circulates through a store and keeps all of the products on the normal shelves at a more or less acceptable temperature. But because refrigerators are hermetically sealed devices (duh) they seal that air in there super tight and when you open one to get a factory beverage, a waft of sickeningly hot chemical air hits you right in the face. An unplugged refrigerator with a transparent glass door (as all MBC-branded ones are) is essentially a mini greenhouse and works on the same principle – light rays enter through the front but can’t exit, thus the temperature is raised.

And lastly, the very worst part is that all of these modern refrigerators have an interior that’s made from some disgusting high-tech petroleum plastic material that is constantly outgassing. This means the toxic chemicals that go into the plastic of the inside (and cover the grates used as shelves) is constantly bubbling out and entering into the heated air inside the unplugged refrigerator, waiting for an unsuspecting customer to open the door and get a fetid blast right in the face when he’s late and on his way to be somewhere else so now he’s got to think about these poison molecules all over his factory drink when he’s feeling guilty enough as it is for drinking overpriced sugar water.

So the guy, the clerk or owner or whoever he is, wanted to discuss Romania and who likes it and why in the heckfire I ever moved here and chuckle chuckle time and I’m standing there slamming refrigerator doors and asking him what the fucking point of having a refrigerator is if he’s going to leave it unplugged and why not just stack the drinks on the shelves next to the beans because they’re at least less cooked and bathed in a chemical soup than the goddamn drinks and no, I don’t have time to buy one, take it home to my own refrigerator, which is plugged in thank you very much, and get it colder than a greenhouse orchid before drinking it.

If you were that guy and you’re reading this, please accept my apology. I didn’t mean to yell at you. But plug in your fucking refrigerators, okay? Because I don’t have time to write an iPhone app called “refrigerators that are actually plugged in and have cold drinks finder” for my city although that’s a good idea and something I just might do next year, assuming I ever get less busy, which is doubtful.