"Seventy-four degrees at 5:11, and this is John Bodnar on WASH. Yes, folks, I'm still in my cell of Coca-Cola out here in Tysons Corner. If you're on your way home, I'd like to have you stop by. Please! I may never get out of here!"
Granted, radio promotions often border on the outrageous. But to take one of Washington's most popular radio personalities and imprison him under a 10-foot-high mountain of soda . . . . well, this one I had to see to believe.
So I arranged to. For about half an hour Tuesday afternoon, I sat in John Bodnar's claustrophobic hideout, under a veritable ocean of sweetness, and listened to him do part of his regular 4-to-8-p.m. radio stint.
At the time I pushed aside a stack of Coke and entered Bodnar's lair, he had spent four days inside it. If all 5,276 cases of soda that originally surrounded Bodnar have been sold by tonight, which is what station officials originally predicted, Bodnar may get to go home to his own bed and his dog, Tug. If not, says Bodnar, "I'll stay in here as long as it takes."
Actually, Bodnar was broadcasting from and living in a $34,000 Winnebago donated for the occasion by a dealership in Annapolis. A Winnebago is hardly a hardship post. It contains a shower, a television set, a choice of six places to sleep and a surprisingly generous amount of room in which to move around.
This Winnebago also contained a critical creature comfort: a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label scotch that WASH program director Bob Hughes had donated to ease Bodnar's ordeal. Let's just say it hadn't gone untouched.
Still, to the left of Bodnar, to his right, his front, his rear and toward the sky, there was Coke. And Sprite. And Tab. And Mello Yello. And nothing but.
There had been 31,658 plastic two-liter bottles of soda when the Bodnar marathon started last Friday. WASH was selling it for $1.50 a bottle -- about a quarter more than the going rate in area food stores -- to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. But after four days, only about one-fifth of the bottles had been sold, so Bodnar's world still was caramel-colored.
"It isn't exactly like being in prison," said Bodnar, who gives his age as "39 and on hold" and who was the picture of comfort in a WASH tee-shirt and a pair of jeans.
"Still, I've really had a strong feeling of having my freedom taken away. You'd like to look in your own closet once in a while. Just not being able to get up and out and do what you want to do, it's different."
All the while, however, the people have flocked. Most notable have been "the kids. Lots of them have come right up to the window over there and chanted 'Free John Bodnar,' as if I was a political prisoner. In radio, you don't often get to see your listeners. I've enjoyed it."
The true hallmark of how much he has enjoyed his sentence may be the Daily Bodnar Tab. Before the Tysons Corner stunt, Bodnar drank a can of the low-calorie beverage every day. Despite a week of being surrounded by it, "I still plan to drink Tab when I get out of here."
Then a moan: "If I get out of here."
If you've seen Mount Bodnar as you pass Tysons, but haven't stopped, please do. Not only is the fight against muscular dystrophy a good cause, but our prisoner has a mission. "I go on vacation Saturday," said Bodnar. "I'd like to begin it out there, not in here."