“One to Call Daddy and One to Pour the Tab”

That’s the punch line of the old riddle “How many Jewish-American princesses does it take to screw in a light bulb?” and it is looking increasingly as if future generations will just furrow their brows when they hear it and wonder what in the world that old fogey is talking about.

Those of us of a certain age know that once upon a time, before there was Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, before there was Diet 7-Up and Diet Sprite, before there was Diet Dr Pepper and Fresca, there was only one diet soda:  it was called “Tab.”

Not even on a dare

As beverages go, Tab wasn’t much.  It was sold as a low-calorie cola and it certainly was brown, but any resemblance between the taste of Tab and that of an actual cola was purely coincidental.  It was good enough, though, for those who were counting their calories and wanted to drink something sweet and bubbly and non-alcoholic.

Like any product, including others that are truly horrendous, Tab has its fans, and those fans apparently have been paranoid for many years over their fear that Coca-Cola, which is responsible for this offense to taste buds everywhere, was planning to take its awful but cult favorite diet soft drink off the market for good.

There is at least a basis for some of this paranoia. Rumors of Tab’s demise began in the early 1980s, after Coca-Cola introduced its first diet Coke and its sales quickly surpassed those of Tab for the simple reason that its taste wasn’t, well, horrendous.  Ever since then, Tab drinkers, lacking, well, lives, have formed support networks to keep an eye out for signs that Coca-Cola might be discontinuing Tab.  They’ve been at it for more than 30 years and their fervor shows little sign of abating even though surely they’re starting to die off.

Their paranoia was fed recently, it turns out, when reports started circulating that Tab had disappeared from store shelves over an area that the New York Times described as “…from Cincinnati to Charlotte, N.C.”  Speculation was rife that it was Tab’s swan song, and this time, there was some justification for their nuttiness:  the bottling company responsible for supplying Coca-Cola products, including Tab, in a 14-state territory that includes Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., has decided to stop producing Tab and to focus instead on its many other diet sodas.

And the Tabbies are – predictably – furious:  they’re barraging Coca-Cola’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta with calls and petitions and have even formed a Facebook group.

The Curmudgeon would like to tell you there’s a happy ending here, but he can’t – and not only because he’s not sure what would be the happy ending:  a better supply of Tab or the disappearance of Tab and the possible rehabilitation of all those damaged taste buds.  All he can tell you is that Coca-Cola is insisting it’s not discontinuing Tab, the bottler in question is not producing more Tab, and the Tabbies keep inundating both with their entreaties to save Tab while arranging shipments of fresh product from friends who live in areas where the Tab supply has not – yet – been compromised.

 

Stay tuned.

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