They say home is where the heart is. I had a pretty interesting homecoming of sorts recently when I got a chance to visit my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland, in February. This visit home was unlike any other visit home in my entire life.

Delivery Truck

My ride for the day.

I was invited to do a heritage program at a Coca-Cola Refreshments distribution facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland – right outside of Washington, D.C. I was asked to do two Black History Month presentations to celebrate the long heritage of Coca-Cola in the African American community with employees there. I accepted the invitation on one condition: that I would be able to go out on a delivery route truck to deliver Coca-Cola for a day with a route driver.

I wanted to learn firsthand about everything that goes into getting Coca-Cola products on store shelves. I always appreciate the opportunity to get my feet on the ground and experience a different aspect of the business every time I can.

Since the facility supplies Coca-Cola in my hometown, they were kind enough to set me up on a truck to go deliver at home! My earliest and fondest memories of Coca-Cola products are drinking Fanta Grape and Fanta Orange at summer camp in Annapolis as a teenager. The old Fanta can designs in the Archives bring back memories all the time. This time around, I was on the other side of the equation: making the product available on shelves for purchase.

The Day

"The Sixer"

When the alarm clock goes off at 3 a.m., it isn’t the most pleasant experience. However, my presentation began at 5 a.m. for the drivers who head out first thing in the morning to make deliveries. I went out on a route truck in and around Annapolis to towns such as Edgewater, Mayo and Shady Side – some locations within a few miles of the house I grew up in.

The first lesson I learned was rain, hail, sleet or unexpected snow, the show must go on! We got out in the elements to deliver Coke to mom and pop shops and many of the store chains I remember frequenting growing up. The second lesson was that innovation never stops. While I knew that Coke invented the six pack in 1923, I did not realize that the latest version of the Coca-Cola six pack, nicknamed “The Sixer” would be one of the packages I would be delivering.

I think the third lesson was the most valuable: When pulling a cart of products stacked high, watch your toes! I can say from experience that it doesn’t feel too good when you roll over your big toe.

Jamal at Renno's Market

Here I am at Renno's Market.

While I kept my eyes out for familiar faces and places during my day on the job, it wasn’t until I posted this picture of me standing in front of Renno's Market in Shady Side, Maryland that I made the ultimate Coke connection. After we delivered to this location, I bought a Coke and took a picture in front of the nice vintage Coca-Cola sign outside the outlet. When I got home, a friend let me know that that very store was owned by a family of some folks I went to High School with. Small world.

Big shout out to Mike, the driver I got out with and learned a lot from. Also, many thanks to the facility managers, Terry Waters and Rodney Waters, who made this all possible. I hope I helped move a few cases!

Jamal Booker is manager of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company.