I'd like to think that I'm a reasonably intelligent person. I've been lots of places and seen lots of amazing things in my life, but something happened to my girlfriend and me on our first day in Iowa that made us both feel like we had stepped into the future.

And it all started with a 12-pack of Coke...

We had gotten into Tiffin in the early afternoon and decided to run to the store to buy our first round of groceries and supplies. While we were checking out, we saw that when the 12-pack of Coke was scanned, a "deposit" was charged to our bill. Now, I'm familiar with the concept of deposits on bottles and cans, we just don't have that in Louisiana. I was immediately intrigued. If it's a "deposit," that would mean that I get that nickle per can back somehow?

I asked the clerk, "So how do I reclaim my deposit? Do I take the empties to customer service or something?"

She said, "You can either do that or use the machines up front."

Machines you say?!?! Color me intrigued...

My girlfriend and I finished checking out and zipped to the front of the store to check out these machines. We stood there in awe as we watched people feed empty cans and bottles into these Star-Trekian wonder boxes.

Where we come from is by no means a small town. As a matter of fact, it's about twice the size of Cedar Rapids, but we don't have ANYTHING like those things there. Hell...we barely have a recycling program. So we stared in wonder at these fancy doo-dads, and we couldn't wait to drink some Cokes just so we could also feed these aluminum hungry monoliths.

Thanks, Iowa, for not only making us feel welcome...but also making us feel as though we just fell off the turnip truck up from Mayberry.

Now if you excuse me...I've got some nickles to harvest.