Minute Maid Lemonade, BP 4901 Southwest Avenue

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Sean McElroy
​It is the most delicious, most thirst-quenching lemonade that anyone has ever tasted, anywhere -- like bottled sunshine. It is sublime. If lemonade fairies plucked the ripest Meyer lemons and combined their juice with the sweetest clover honey and the purest, coldest spring water, they could not top the murky, pale liquid that pours forth from this plastic bottle. One of the sixth-floor nurses has filled a BJC travel mug with pellets of ice. We add the lemonade, snap the lid on and press the button to raise the incline of his bed so he can sip from the bendy straw. He smiles a Vicodin-laced smile and says nothing could be better. We agree.

2:00 a.m. We had just run home to change clothes and brush our teeth. Had to stop for gas. Lit by florescent lights, the neon letters painted on the gas station windows look garish, crazy. The door is locked. We get the attendant's attention and he lets us in. "Oh, sorry. Just went to the bathroom," he explains as we search the cooler for lemonade. "Forgot the door was still locked," he chuckles at himself as we set it on the counter. He must have noticed something on our face, because he became serious and added, "Really, sorry about that."

2:30 a.m. In the surgical overnight waiting room, curled up on a chair, purse under our head, the bottle is cool on our cheek. We are kept company by the smiling, awe-struck women of the TopStyler infomercial playing on the TV above us and their shiny, bouncy curls. After them, preacher Joel Osteen and his Texas drawl, also grinning ear-to-ear, also sporting shiny, bouncy curls. They are not unlike the dark curls that gather behind the ears of our loved one, that were damp with sweat when we saw him last.

Midnight His lips are dry and crinkled. He creaks out a request for some water. He had waited in the E.R., doubled over, for hours, without eating or drinking anything. When the doctors finally saw him, they quickly concluded what he had known with increasing certainty since lunchtime -- his appendix had to go. They put something in his IV that took away the pain, and with it, all the remaining moisture in his throat.

The sweet, round-cheeked Korean nurse in the pre-op/recovery area gives him a Styrofoam cup of ice water, a small sponge on a stick with which to wet his mouth, and a stern warning not to swallow a single drop. Though it seems like a technique you might use on someone you're trying to get information out of, we dutifully moisten the sponge and offer it to him. We can practically hear his tongue peel off the roof of his mouth when he rejects it. "I just want a tall, cold glass of lemonade," he says, eyelids fluttering heavily, half wishing, half hallucinating. He continues talking dopily about this glass of lemonade until the anesthetist mercifully arrives.

1:00 a.m. We give him a kiss goodbye. As they roll him away on his hospital bed and he rolls away on a sea of drugs, we tell him we will see him soon. He says not to forget the lemonade.

In the light of morning, when he wakes up, time resumes its normal, familiar forward flow. We pull the bottle from our purse. Minute Maid. That was us, all night long, trying to keep track of the minutes and hours that floated around, detached from significance. We held on to the numbers, trying to mark where we were in the course of things, but they didn't tell us what we needed to know.

This is how the company describes its product, "Made with the goodness of real lemons, Minute Maid Lemonade is the quintessential refreshing beverage with the great taste of a simpler time." Though certainly an idealized description of a beverage that contains high fructose corn syrup, modified cornstarch, potassium sorbate and yellow #5, it doesn't matter, because we're buying what it's selling. Adspeak is successful when what a product represents to us is more important than what it actually is. To us, the soft drink in our hands means everything is going to be OK, and nothing could be better than that.

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