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Heavenly Happiness
Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved

Shanghai Disneyland just released two limited edition commemorative bottles for the New Year of the Mouse World Collection this week. In celebrating the Year of the Rat, Coca-Cola and Disneyland produced a series of twelve 250ml aluminum collector bottles. There are six pairs of bottles featuring Mickey and Minnie in different regional costumes representing each of the six Disneyland Resorts: Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. The bottles are topped with matching crown caps showing the castle featured at each of the Disney parks.

An eagle-eyed collector from overseas, who was the sixth person in line outside the Disney store in Chuansha where the bottles went on sale on the first day, noticed a graphical error on the Shanghai edition caps. He grabbed the maximum number of bottles allowed – 6 of each design – and rushed to the cashier to pay for them with cash and ran out the door.

It was a sunny but chilly January morning in Pudong. The Coke collector took out one of the Mickey bottles and ran his thick thumb over the cap. He could almost hear his heart thumping like Thumper. Without missing a beat, he voice-dialed his HTC to reach his pal in Belgium.

“Guess what – there is an error on the Shanghai bottle!”

“How many you got?”

“Six each"

“I could use more.”

“I'll try. I need to get back in line.”

“Good luck!”

The medium-built black-haired man expertly re-wrapped and inserted the contour bottle into the auspicious bright red Disney plastic gift bag and stuffed the whole bag of 12 bottles in another black Adidas gym bag. He flung the bag carefully over his left shoulder and raced back towards the store entrance.

As it turned out, the veteran Coke collector was only able to get 8 more bottles after getting back in line. The store sold out the entire first day allotment of 2020. Bowing his head, the middle-aged assistant store manager apologized and explained that he expected to receive another allotment the next day before 9 o’clock.

Three of the eight bottles had visible scratches on the front near Minnie’s pink qipao. He wasn't terribly upset because he had done better than the 5 pairs of the Hong Kong bottles which he had picked up the day before on Lantau. He could keep one Shanghai pair for himself, send 6 pairs to Europe, and still had some extras to trade.

He glanced at his well worn red Swatch on his left wrist and closed his eyes. His flight for Songshan would depart at ten in the morning and there was no way that he could make the flight if he returned to the store to get more bottles.

His eyes opened suddenly as a light bulb went off in his sweaty head even in the sub-10-degree weather. He packed the bottles gently but swiftly, and darted towards the coin lockers by the Lost-and-Found near the Park entrance.

“Nihao. Do you have any more bottles?” Asked the Coke man gesturing the contour-shaped bottles with both his hands and then wiping his forehead with his right sleeve.

A sales girl in her early twenties dressed in a burgundy uniform stood solemnly by the empty display case and apologized that the store had sold out all 2020 bottles on the first day.

“Already? I came all the way from Meiguo to buy these bottles and they are sold out.” He protested mildly trying to elicit some sympathy and continued to wipe away his sweat.

“It’s for the new year 2020, so we only have 2020 bottles today.” The olive-faced Chinese girl explained. “We will get more tomorrow morning.”

“Tomorrow?! I cannot come back tomorrow. I leave for airport tonight.” He raised his voice firmly but not so much as to unnecessarily attract the attention of the assistant store manager who had just given him the same explanation 20 minutes earlier.

He interlocked his fingers together and pleaded with the uniformed girl:

“Baituo baituo. Please help me. I promised my friends that I would buy the bottles for them. They had already given me money. I will not be able to come back again and I do not want to break my promise to my friends.”

“I am very sorry. Umm.”

“Please.” The man sighed heavily and raised his hands over his disheveled hair.

“Umm. Well.”

Another heavy sigh.

“Well, you see. You could try asking that man there. He is putting the backpacks on those racks. He does the restocking. I think he might be able to help you.” The girl said in a quiet voice.

“That man over there?"

“Umm. Yes.”

“Xie Xie. Xie Xie.”

Trying unsuccessfully to hide his grin, he waltzed towards the backpack racks and recounted his sob story to the stock boy.

The tall slender stock boy looked at the man incredulously and shook his head. After he put up the last beige Pluto canvas backpack, he motioned the Coke collector to follow him outside the other entrance of the store.

“How many you want?”

“Umm.” Caught off guard with the offer, the Coke Man stumbled and threw up all the fingers on both of his hands.

“Ten?”

He gestured to show two times that number and said, “Ten Mickey and Ten Minnie.”

“Only twelve per person.”

“But I came all the way from Meiguo to buy these bottles for my friends who could not come. We are collectors and we like these bottles very much for our collection.”

“I know you collectors. You are very crazy. My friends are collectors, too. They came this morning. I give you his mobile number and you talk to him.”

The collector pressed his lips tightly together and took a deep breath. “Sure, sure. Please give me his number. Xie Xie.”

* * *

“So how many did you get?” The voice asked.

“Let’s see. I got thirty-six of the Shanghai pair, and twelve of the Hong Kong pair.”

“Whoa, how did you manage that?”

“Long story short, I met some other local collectors and worked out a deal with them. I promised to send them the Tokyo bottles later this week.”

“Did you say thirty-six bottles or thirty-six pairs?”

“Thirty-six plus thirty-six”

“Fantastisch!”

“But some of the Shanghai Minnies are messed up.”

“Oh.”

“I could trade them still. Some people might be okay with it. Hey, I gotta go. I will post 2 cases of both the Shanghai and Hong Kong bottles to you first from the post office here.”

“Thank you so much. I’ve shipped the Euro Disney set and the CCE Anniversary VIP bottles out to you yesterday. Let me know what else you need for the extra New Year bottles you’re sending me”

“Okay. I’ll let you know. Xie Xie."

“What?”

“Oh, I said Thank You in Chinese”

“Shay Shay”

“Hey, will I see you at Springtime in Atlanta?”

“Most definitely, Ciao!”

The Coke Man sat down on an outdoor concrete bench and twisted opened the emerald green cap of a 480ml hexagonal PET bottle of unsweetened Tian Le jasmine tea. He took a sip and gazed across the murky Huangpu River at the site where the Shanghai Expo was held 10 years ago.

* * *

“Hi there!”

“You must be …”

“Yes, nice to meet you finally!”

The two men shook hands with their right hands and patted each other on the shoulders with the other hand.

“Here, I brought you the 2014 Sochi Torch Bearer Bottle” the shorter man handed the taller man a glistening aluminum bottle with the Olympic flame over the shores of Black Sea with the snow-capped Krasnaya Polyana in the background.

“It’s gorgeous.” The taller man wearing a pale orange-colored old-style Fanta logo cotton T-Shirt and a pair of loose Wrangler jeans examined the bottle admiringly.

“My girlfriend got two of them when she was on the Torch Relay support team two months ago. She said I could trade one of them.” Smiled the shorter man with a white T-shirt and khaki shorts. The front of his T-shirt had a small red Coke Disc with “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” in white letters. The backside had a big red fishtail sign with the same slogan.

“Is she here with you?” Fanta Man asked.

“Oh no. She couldn’t come out to Atlanta with me this time.” Coke Man explained.

“That’s too bad.”

“Maybe next year.”

“I have your bottle in my room. Let me go upstairs to get it or do you want to come up with me?”

“I am going to drop off this Coke Two can at the silent auction first and then I’ll come by your room.”

“May I have a look?” Fanta Man handed the Sochi bottle back to Coke Man and exchanged it for the Coke II can.

“It’s still full!” Fanta Man exclaimed.

“It’s from 1994.” Coke Man said proudly. “Twenty years old. Just a minor dent along the bottom rim, otherwise, it’s perfect. I’ve decided to focus on bottles from now on. I thought someone here might be interested in getting the Coke Two can. I haven’t seen any on eBay recently.”

“How much you want for it?” Fanta Man asked.

“Well I was just going to put it in the silent auction without a reserve.” Coke Man shrugged. “I got it through a good trade a few years back so my cost is pretty low.”

“You mean you got it for free?”

“Just about.” Coke Man laughed.

“I think you can get at least twenty for it.”

“That’s what I thought, but I don’t know if there are a lot of can collectors here today. Anyways, did you want it?”

“I’ll bid on it later, but it’s not for me. I think my neighbor’s brother-in-law might be interested. He started collecting cans just two years ago. He probably doesn’t know what Coke Two is.

“Is he from Brussels, too?”

“No, he’s Canadian. My neighbor is Czech and his wife is Canadian. It’s her younger brother who lives in Mississauga – just south of Toronto.”

“If you want, I could give it to you to give to him. It’s good to make another collector friend.”

“That’s okay. Just put it in the silent auction and I’ll bid on it.”

“I’ve got two. I’m putting this one in the silent auction to test the waters. I have another one in my room.”

“If you insist. I’ll take one and I’ll give you twenty for it.”

“Don’t worry about it. Like I said, it’s good to make another collector friend.”

“In that case, I’ll ask him to send you something to trade for it.”

* * *

Coke Man took another sip of the Tian Le in his right hand while glancing at the Swatch on his left wrist. The plastic casing was a little worn, but it was still in pretty good shape. The Swatch was what the young Canadian can collector sent him for the Coke II can six years ago. Coke Man was told that the special edition Swatch was won from a contest in Toronto. Both the green-colored hour and minute hands were in the shape of elongated contour bottles. Coke Man shook his wrist to adjust the position of the watch and rested his hand on the bench. He then took another sip of the jasmine tea.

Six year later, he still couldn’t believe that his Coke II can sold for $57 that day in the silent auction. Coke Man remembered sending an e-mail to the Canadian Can Man to remind him about properly storing the can since it was still full. The Can-adian wrote back that the can was already emptied when he received it.

Fanta Man had drained the can with a pinhole underneath where the pull tab was. This was a technique practiced by some can collectors to empty the content of the cans without leaving any visible holes for drainage. Some collectors called these cans fake air-filled cans. The genuine air-filled cans were actually cans manufactured without any beverage content. These were produced from time to time to commemorate special events.

Coke Man had always used the holes-on-the-bottom technique. He used an awl to pierce two 4mm-diameter holes in the bottom of his cans to drain and rinse out the content. He thought the pinhole method was too time consuming and too messy. Coke Man had practiced this method to preserve over 8500 steel and aluminum cans before he stopped collecting.

It was almost three in the afternoon in Shanghai. The sky by now was overcast and the wind began to pick up. Coke Man finished the last few drops of Tian Le. He thought it tasted similar to the Heaven & Earth he had in Singapore a few years ago. He saved the green cap in his left pants pocket and tossed the empty bottle into a trash bin by the bench.

“Two points” he said to himself.

After discarding his tea bottle, he noticed the advertisement at the bus stop nearby. The ad was for the new Tian Le Ginseng Tea. He stood up and stretched a little before walking slowly towards the poster. Coke Man reached into his right coat pocket for his camera-phone.

The giant poster featured what appeared to be a ginseng root sprouting through a bottle with the base sprinkled with some twig-like herbs and reddish orange raisin-like berries. Coke Man recognized the Chinese characters in calligraphy: “Pure Essence from Good Earth. Eternal Happiness from Heaven.”

Coke Man snapped a photo of the ginger tea poster that was mounted behind a pane of plexiglass with his black HTC.

“Dah-Ge” a brash male voice startled the Coke Man.

... to be continued

 

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3.23 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."