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During the 1970s, the average person doubled the amount of soda they drank; by the 1980s consumption had overtaken tap water. Coca-Cola bottlers in this era were essentially printing money, and the décor of the locally-owned bottling plants often showed it. A private elevator here, shag carpeting there, custom wood panels, windows fabricated like bottle caps, extra facilities for the owner, etc.

I visited one of the relics on a project in the 2000s. Although the functioning part of the plant had been neatly renovated and modernized, a portion was cordoned off…like a walk-in time capsule collecting dust. I noticed a maintenance team reassembling a massive air conditioning unit for the facility. They had been at it two days, tracing a foul-smelling suspected carcass in the ductwork. Come to find out, the air intake was pulling from the cordoned off area, and more specifically, an abandoned restroom that gradually let in sewer vapor. They told me later a few flushes replenished the water supply and cut off the odor. It was a strong reminder to consider sources, conduits and outputs…end-to-end.

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