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2003-07-07 | 9:59 a.m.

Imagine it is a hot day. (This may not be difficult where you are, given that it is July, though here it is chilly and overcast.) It is a baking-sun kind of day at the beach, and you want a Pepsi.

Feel free to substitute another beverage if it works better for you.

You want a Pepsi, and lo and behold, there is one. You left it beside your beach towel, in the sand. It is in a plastic cup full of ice, and frankly, it's a little the worse for wear. Half the ice has melted, so the soda is watered down so much that the first inch or so of liquid is clear, not brown. The sides of the cup are sweating heavy beads of condensation. Still, it is wet, and it is reasonably cold, and you know you are going to drink it. You are grateful for it.

But what's this? Someone is opening a cooler and offering you a can of Pepsi from the cooler. The cooler is filled to the brim with ice, and as he slides the can from its depths, he moves it from the palm of his hand to his fingertips. The can is too cold to hold in his palm. Your benefactor uses his free hand to sweep away the chips of ice that are still clinging to the aluminum.

"Here," he says genially. "Help yourself."

Now what are you going to do, dear beachgoer? Though you are already thirsty, as you stare at the can you seem to grow even more thirsty. Unbearably, unspeakably thirsty. What are you going to do?

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