Nostalgia is a strange thing


I’ve loved Stranger Things from the moment it appeared on Netflix. This story of a bunch of kids roaming around town on bicycles without parental supervision is a basic picture of my childhood 1. It’s a lot of fun to watch the show with friends and shout out all the things we recognize from our youth. Stranger Things is familiar, even as it’s creepy. That may actually be the point.

In season three, one particular shout out moment came as the party members argued about New Coke. When his friends demand to know how Lucas could drink one of the reformulated soft-drinks he declares, “Because it’s delicious…. sweeter, bolder, better.” This had me howling with laughter, because New Coke was a pivotal moment of my own childhood.

I was ten years old when New Coke hit the scene, and the very idea of it blew my mind. For my entire life 2 Coke had been the soft-drink our family had on hand. On occasion we’d find a bottle of Pepsi at a gathering, but that was an anomaly. We were Coca-Cola people 3. The arrival of New Coke meant that our preferred soft drink no longer existedI. In its place would be a completely different liquid, dressed in pretty much the same clothes. The very idea of it boggled my mind, and the first time I tried New Coke my brain had trouble adjusting. The hint of Coca-Cola was there, but it was overwhelmed by sheer sweetness. The moment Coca-Cola classic came out our family jumped right back. I still remember when my sisters and I saw the two liter bottle of “Coke Classic” come into the house with the pizza our father had just picked up. There was cheering 4.

But nostalgia is a weird thing, and that funny scene in Stranger Things 3 got me thinking about New Coke again. Was it really as bad as I remember? It so happens, I’ll be able to find out.

As part of a cross promotion with Stranger Things 3, the Coca-Cola company has re-released New Coke in a special collector’s pack. It’s not available in stores, so you have to have it shipped, but you can get it. The package arrives in a special box and contains two cans of New Coke, one bottle of the original formula 5, and one bottle of Coke Zero 6. It’s twenty dollars and nostalgia being as strange as it is, I placed an order minutes after I found out this pack exists. It’s supposed to arrive on August 1.

So what am I going to do with this blast from the past? I’m going to share it with the same neighbors with whom we watch Stranger Things! That way we can all experience that moment when we thought Coca-Cola had gone away forever, and discover if that thought is as bad as we remember.

Nostalgia is a strange thing, indeed.

  1. Minus the other-dimensional monsters and government conspiracies, that is. 
  2. All of a decade, plus two. 
  3. My grandfather owned a netting factory with an old Coke machine which served up green-tinted bottles that you had to save so they could be refilled. It was old school. I won’t even drink corn-syrup Coca-Cola nowadays if I can help it. The Mexican Coke is so much better. 
  4. Sure, it had switched to corn syrup, but after being stuck with the “upgrade” for a couple of months we didn’t care. 
  5. I’m not sure if it’s got real sugar or not, but I have Mexican Coke on hand so it doesn’t matter. 
  6. For reasons unknown.