Zima with a 'Z'

Unaplogetically by  Tom Ziegler

Reglar Wiglar #3, 1994

Zo, what iz thiz ztuff? SHUTUP! Speak English, goddmammit. I watch just a little too much tv and lately my screen has been inundated with ads for Zima. Not only are they on my tube, their ads are on the sides of busses, in magazines, on el platforms, basically, your average all-out media blitz.

Like most products aimed at a hipper, younger demographic (my grandpa is not going to be sitting in front of the tube asking, What iz thiz ztuff?) Zima has a spokesperson in the guise of some reject from the sweat hogs--kind of a cross between Horshak and Epstein--wearing an oversized white suit with Chuck Taylors and a goofy fedora. The fedora seems to be some sort of running joke in the series of television commercials; other characters comment, "Nice Hat." I don't get it. I don't care. The sweat hog keeps speaking in forced alliteration, substituting Z's where the S's should be, as I have so illustrated. Perhaps he's had a few Zima's himself.

Even a communications major could tell you that the whole ploy of this less-than-brilliant ad campaign is to surround this Zima shit with an aura of mystery--it's not a beer; it's not a wine cooler; it's not your father's Oldsmobile--in the hopes of piquing the consumer's curiosity, so that he or she will run, run, run out to the nearest liquor store and pick up a six.

Seven years of college so I could come up with this? Sheesh. At first my curiosity had failed to be piqued; I dismissed Zima as just another ploy appealing to a trend-hungry consumer public. My suspicions however, were aroused. If these Zima people are so hell-bent on my trying their product, it must be nothing special. Remember Crystal Pepsi? Clear beer? How about the current ice beer trend?

Incidentally, Icehouse has a 1-800 number; 1-800-ICEHOUSE, where any bozo can call up and offer a slogan. Now that's brilliant marketing--why pay an ad agency when you can get morons to do it for free? Call them up. Load their answering machine with lots of useless dead air. They're paying for it--a hell of a lot less than they're paying the boys on Madison Ave. I've already called and left a few slogans of my own: ICEHOUSE--Jump on the Bandwagon! and 1-ICEHOUSE--It'll Get Her Drunk.

Upon further reflection, I realized that the Zima campaign has done its job. My curiosity had indeed been piqued. Perhaps Zima could replace the Old Style King Kan as the official Reglur Wiglur beverage? Perhaps I should put my cynicism and skepticism on the shelf and just shut up and try the stuff.

So in the interests of responsible journalism, I hooked a ten-spot from the register at work and stopped by the Walgreen's on my way home. I marched past the rent-a-cop, up the candy aisle and straight to the refrigerators in the liquor department. I checked the aisle to make sure no one saw my buying Zima, and when the coast was clear, grabbed a six and went up to the cash register.

"Oh," the cashier said, zapping the bar code, "Zima. Have you tried this before?"

"No," I replied. "In fact, this is my first time. I'm writing an article on it for a magazine."

"Really?" she asked. "What magazine?"

"The New Yorker. I'm the food and wine critic."

She nodded. This seemed to satisfy her. "Have a nice day," she said, placing my Zima in a plain brown paper bag.

When I got home, I examined the bottle; clear with vertical ridges in a sort of Greco-Roman style and a small blue label at the bottom bearing the words, 'ZIMA-clearmalt," 'Malt Beverage with natural flavors." Malt beverage? You mean like malt liquor? Like King Kobra? Like OE 800? Like, I could get this shit in a 40? Probably not.

Around the neck was another blue label with the words, "Questions? Comments? Please call 1-800-648-XXXX." I made a mental note to call the good folks at Zima with a few questions and comments of my own. Why did my high school chemistry teacher comb his hair across his bald spot? He wasn't fooling anyone. Is it true that you can make a legal U-turn in the city? Why do the student loan people keep calling even though I told them I died? These questions would have to wait; I had bigger fish to fry.

I popped open my Zima and took a tentative zip (sorry). Cool. Fruity. Kind of dry, like rubbing alcohol with a splash of Tang.

Ok, it passed the first test. I had proven that Zima is mildly palatable, but now the true test: does it go with cigarettes? Beer goes great with cigarettes, be it PBR or Kraut Hops.

(I remember when I first discovered the winning combination of beer and butts. I was fifteen and sitting in the front seat of my friend Clark's '77 Chevy Impala waiting for him to come out of the Hardee's with my sausage and egg biscuit. You don't have Hardee's here. You lose.

I had just popped open a National Bohemian with the seat belt buckle. For six bucks, you could get a case of Natty Bo long neck returnables, and when you got your deposit back the next day, you had enough for a pack of smokes.

As fate would have it, I lit up a smoke, and when I discovered the combination of the tobacco and the hops, I felt like the Earl of Sandwich when he slapped a piece of ham between two slices of manna--that's what it was--Manna from Heaven. I swore I would never stop drinking beer and smoking cigarettes together for the rest of my life and well...)

So I fired up a Camel and took a drag. Was it everything I hoped it would be? Was I onto a taste sensation that would sweep the nation? Did it tickle my dormant taste buds? Would I have something to talk about when I phoned the Zima people?

Nope. Sorry folks. The Zima/Camel collaboration was just not going on. Rather than create a mellow melange of smoke and alcohol, the two tastes refused to shakes hands and make happy. Of course this didn't prevent me from smoking, but I had to give it a big fat imperial thumbs down.

As I zipped my Zima (goddmamit), I realized this shit's strong. Halfway through the bottle, and I felt a bit, well, zippy. It occurred to my that Zima may become a big hit among unscrupulous young men between the ages of 15 and 25, not because they enjoy the taste, but because they can give it it girls--excuse me, wimmin,-- because this shit don't taste like booze, and it's mighty potent. Get it? We could have a national epidemic on our hands. Why, if I knew who the hell my senator was, I could write a few angry letters, make a few angry phone calls and organize another useless sentate committee hearing. I made another mental note to get right on that after I called the Zima people.

Does a bottle of Zima stand the test of time? You have to drink the Old Style King Kan real fast so you're not left with a bunch of warm backwash at the bottom, but in the interests of responsible journalism, I zlowly zipped my Zima (stopstopstop).

I used to go out with this girl, and she drank real slow, so as soon as I popped open a cool one, she would foist her quarter full beer on me and steal mine. Would she finish a Zima? Probably not.

For my next Zima (you can't have just one--come on already) I decided to try it on the rocks. You can't pour beer over ice. My mom does but she can get away with it, because she's my mom, see?

I have to admit, it was much better. The Zima seemed more like a mixed drink and boy did I feel mature, a faux cocktail in my hand, the ice rattling in the glass. "Millicent, do be a dear and mix me a Zima, hmmm?"

After a Zima and a half, I was beyond zippy and heading down the highway to zowie with a brief pit stop at zingy. The Zima was definitely going down a lot easier. I put on a little B.T. Express and hopped up on the coffee table to give the neighbors across the street a little show and did it, did it, did it 'til I was satisfied.

For my third Zima, I shook up the bottle real hard and stuck the neck in my mouth right after I popped the cap. Zima shot out my nose onto the carpet and the cat. I don't recommend this.

For my fourth Zima, I opted for the ice again. Still though, I had this funky aftertaste in my mouth that, albeit familiar, I couldn't place.

I was reminded of a guilty pleasure--remember that movie Hollywood Knights? Remember when Newbaum Turk and his friends peed in the punch bowl at the country club and the members drank it, and one guy said "Got kind of a wang in it," and then that woman said, "Gee, I've had this taste in my mouth before."?

Ok, I just figured out my little sliparoo, and the guilty pleasure was the Hollywood Knights, not the wang. Sorry, I just don't get into water sports.

Although, I did know this kid in high school, Roger, who would get so loaded that he would drink anything. Certain sadistic individuals would urinate in beer bottles and, well, you can figure out the rest.

Anyway, I did have a certain unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth, and when I realized that not only were they bottles given to Roger filled with urine, but also tobacco spit, I remembered another occasion in high school when I was at a party, and I set my beer down next to an identical can and then picked up the wrong one and realized a bit too late, that some genetic misfit had been using it as a receptacle for his chew spit. I vomited then, as I did upon my epiphany that Zima tasted the same way.

Let me tell you, Zima may not be a wine cooler, and it may not be a beer, but Zima vomit looks just the same as any other. It tastes the same too.

Let me also tell you, a Zima hangover is ten times worse than a beer hangover. My eyeballs felt like they were going to lay eggs when I dialed the 1-800 number the next day and spoke with Lisa, a representative of the Coors' Brewing Company.

Coors'? Uh-oh.

Lisa was bright and friendly and successfully failed to answer my questions as I'm sure she's instructed to do. When I asked her if she drank Zima, she replied, "Oh all the time. I love it!" I asked her if maybe she drank a little too much Zima and maybe she should get to a meeting? Lisa giggled and I pictured a casual flip of the hair.

Then I asked her if she ever got any really weird phone calls like, "My baby swallowed a bottle of Zima, what should I do?" Lisa said that sometimes on Fridays around five o'clock when people were off work they would call her and sing Zima songs.

I asked Lisa if perhaps a supervisor was monitoring our conversation. Lisa giggled again and replied, "Yes, uh-huh." Obviously I was going to get nothing relevant from Lisa, so I asked for a number for someone in the marketing department. Lisa gave me Ruben's name and number. Lisa was nice.

I called Ruben and told him that I was writing an article for the Chicago Consumer Digest on new marketing strategies of alcoholic beverages. Ruben was only too happy to oblige, but I didn't understand a fuckin' word he said. Open marketing textbook to page 37, "How to say absolutely nothing in as many words as possible." Ruben was nice too, but like Lisa, I'm sure he didn't want to say anything that might put his happy little can in jeopardy. Why couldn't I get that one disgruntled Coors' worker who was going to reveal to me that Zima is really snail spit, and boy are they chuckling about this one at the home office.

However, Ruben agreed to send me some whopping press kit and demographical information and statistics and a bunch of junk like that. He even told me he would express mail it tomorrow. Maybe Ruben was feeding me a line, but I doubt he'll check up on my phony credentials, and maybe I'll get a free keychain or a t-shirt.

I had to ask him, though, What about that damn hat? Ruben chuckled the same way a carny chuckles when the rube steps up to the Keno wheel with a wad of bills clutched in his sweaty fist.

"Well obviously, it's got you thinking, right?" he asked. Boy did I feel like a yo-yo.

So I have a couple Zima's left. Maybe I'll pawn them off on guests, but when there's nothing else in the fridge, I'll drink Windex, so maybe I should stow them for an emergency. Maybe I'll give them to those obnoxious children who congregate below my bedroom window every Saturday morning. "Zay, kidz, howzabout a Zima?

More by Tom Ziegler

Psycolologically Unfit
How to be a Smart-Ass
Save the Planet
Making the Least of Your Time



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