Allow me to apologize to my European audience in advance. Overall, I am having a great time adjusting to the culture here. However, it is time for this spoiled American to climb back on the soapbox.
There is one thing that I just totally dislike about Europeans. They just do not appreciate how important it is to drink your soda cold! Just because a bottle soda is a few degrees below room temperature doesn't mean its cold. When I say cold, I mean 1-2 degrees above freezing cold. People let their soda bottles sit out here all day long and drink it at room temperature. Blasphemy!! Restaurants are just as bad. They usually serve lukewarm soda also. Not only that, even if the soda is cold when they serve it, you don't get ice. So guess what happens halfway through your meal, that's right, you're drinking lukewarm soda again!
Drinking luke warm soda is such a letdown. It's like making it to the Superbowl - and losing by 30 pts. Like winning the lottery - and only getting half the money. Like looking at your paycheck and counting the money - before taxes. You get the idea.
Today's Soda Purchase Ordeal
Ok, I had to run an errand outside the gate at work today. On my way back, I was craving a soda (coke to be exact). What kind of soda did I want? Yes, a COLD one. There are several small stores right outside the gate, so I entered the first one. I went to the "refrigerator" where the drinks are kept and put my hands on a .5 liter coke (price 2 Lei, or 75 cents US). It was totally warm - room temperature. Ok, fine. I figured they had just restocked it, so I put it back and went to another store about 2-3 doors down. This store is actually a bakery, but they had a refrigerator with sodas. I was excited to find a .5 liter coke that was almost cold - the best you will find in Romania, probably about 50 degrees F. It was 2.60 Lei, or about 90 cents US. I had three 1 Lei bills in my hand to pay when I reached the counter. When I tried to pay, the lady informed me that she had NO coins. I thought "How can a store have no coins?" I then remembered I was in Romania.
Despite that fact that 3 Lei is only about 1.10 US, and she only owed me about 15 cents in change, I refused to buy this soda and put it back. I then with to a 4th store (sort of a deli) and they had no regular .5 liter cokes at all. With my options beginning to dwindle, I hiked about 1 city block to a 5th store, looking for the elusive .5 liter bottle of coke. With luck, this 5th store had the .5 liter bottles for 2.20 lei (about 75 cents). Of course it wasn't cold, with a temperature somewhere in between the first 2 stores. I made the purchase and enjoyed about 2 sips of my lukewarm soda, before I couldn't take it anymore. How depressing. I decided to close it up and put in the refrigerator here at work and drink it later - hopefully cold. I should have expected this - when I returned to work and opened the fridge, it was set at the highest possible temperature, barely colder than the room it is in. Why have a fridge if you're only going to set it on level 1 anyway? I can't win!
Steve's solution: Invade Romania!
Dear President Bush,
I understand our military is a little busy right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I request at least 2 Army divisions to be sent to Romania for a "humanitarian mission". The purpose will be to free the people from the shackles of lukewarm sodas. Immediate funding will be needed to procure 500,000 ICE CUBE MAKING MACHINES and install them at every restaurant and street market in the city of Bucharest. Do not delay - the people (read Steve) need you.