They say that coffee is a drug, but I never really understood that as a kid. It didn’t seem to me, from watching my dad drink a cup or two of Peet’s strongest brew on weekends, that coffee had the power to make people hallucinate or leave reality. Sure, it made him talk at maximum speed (and volume) while recapping the latest Giants game or Phil Lesh concert to his BFF Sandy over the phone, or catching my grandma in Delaware up on events from the week….
“OH HI MA,” he’d shout into the receiver, “YEAHHHHH… WE’RE DOING GREAT OUT HERE, HOW’S YOUR TEMPORAL ARTERITIS THIS WEEK? … YEAH IT’S GORGEOUS AND 70 DEGREES HERE, WE’RE JUST SITTING AROUND AND…. WHAT? WHAT’S THAT? Oh, Deb is telling me to lower my voice… Oh… Yeah, she says she can hear me from next door… so yeah HOW’S THE WEATHER OUT THERE?!”
Aside from overexcitement and extended trips with the Sports page to the downstairs bathroom, I never noticed anything exceedingly abnormal about my father’s personality while under the influence of caffeine. And so I always assumed it was a harmless, albeit bitter, one of adulthood’s simple pleasures.
Boy, was I wrong. I started my own relationship with caffeine in college, when I would down two double-shot Starbucks espresso cans from the student store on my way to the first of ten daily meetings, including (but not limited to) Student Senate, the Power Dynamics Awareness Committee, Campus Climate Challenge, Worker’s Support Committee, Environmental Quality Committee, the Women’s Union, Students for Protection and Preservation of the Bernard Field Station, and the Multiracial Organization for Redefining Ethnicity.
It was in the middle of a post-Rugby-practice Physics Exam, when the numbers started to swirl and appear menacingly un-interpretable on the page, that I realized coffee and No-Doze do not mix nicely, and checked myself into the care of the Claremont Colleges Mental Health Center. There, my therapist Gary convinced me I should cut back on the overachiever lifestyle, and—probably if we were being honest—the caffeine. Given that the night before our first meeting I had drank too much black tea and convinced myself that I had forgotten how to breathe and was capable of swallowing my own tongue… I reluctantly agreed that it might be time to lay off for a while.
Here I am, though, three years later and back in the game. One hot cuppa’ Joe is all it takes to get the words flying, the projects up and running, and the ideas moving faster than my brain can keep up. Caffeine is a magical drug, used liberally in coworking spaces, startups, and newsrooms worldwide… The universal kickstarter to creativity, but also a substance not to be taken lightly.
Here, I present you with 11 of the craziest thoughts I’ve ever had on caffeine:
1. “I should run for president!” (Thought during work at my most recent full-time job while admiring my own leadership abilities, which at the moment consisted of instructing an intern on how to brew coffee and sort mail.)
2. “I’m going to leave off my job search and hike the Appalachian Trail!” (Thought while reading Page one of Bill Bryson’s memoir of doing the same in “A Walk In The Woods.” On Page two, I read his account of bears, lightning, fire ants, rape, scalping by owl, snakes, lyme disesase, a parasitic worm that burrows in your brain driving you to insanity, and the price of REI equipment, and decided to backburner the idea for a year or so… )
3. “My true calling is as a full-time yoga teacher.” (Thought after a particularly awesome Vinyasa class at the Brooklyn Dharma Yoga School, followed by a particularly strong Stumptown Roasters cappuccino at Gorilla Café on 5th Ave… Despite the fact that I’ve never been to India and have never once lasted through shivasana without scratching at least three different body parts.)
4. “Maybe I’m actually a Republican, and just never gave it adequate thought.” (Thought after Obama tanked in the first presidential debate of 2012, and I consoled myself with a cup of strong sludgy Turkish coffee and a pastry at 10 o’clock at night).
5. Similar, but also opposite: “Maybe I’m secretly a lesbian that’s stifled by our homophobic culture of conformity!” (Thought frequently during college years and midnight feminist-paper-writing sessions in the library.)
6. “The non-profit is a completely useless business model.” (This one I’ll have to get back to you on… I actually think that there may something to be said for a strict for-profit vs. charity dichotomy, when you consider that nonprofits operate purely on gifts and donations aka indirect charity. Also considering that government-funded organizations are public, or at least semi-public, in nature and represent systematized charity. And considering that “for profit” be defined in a more comprehensive triple-bottom line fashion, meaning economic, environmental, and social. This taken with a very large grain of salt, representative of all the close friends and heroes I’d be unnecessarily putting out of work by going around touting this brilliant brain fart on a large-scale basis…Not to mention shooting myself in the foot for any future possibility of a full-time job with benefits!)
7. “I should really dye my hair blonde again.” (A thought that represents the lowest side of my psyche, which sometimes tries to steer me in the direction of a rich husband and easy life as an oddly-flat-chested trophy wife… although hmmm, scratch that, my mom would kill me and besides, I always wheeze uncontrollably when exposed to bleach…)
8. “I should make a Tumblr blog of the World’s Best Restaurant Bathrooms!” (Thought while on the toilet of a particularly-stylish bathroom I was gracing with my caffeine-crazed presence at 10 am on a Tuesday morning).
9. “If I really apply myself and learn Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian in the next three years, I can join the CIA!” (Thought over a strong cup of coffee at a café in Berkeley—after which I purchased the Beginner’s Chinese Rosetta Stone and a one-way ticket to China. Needless to say, I did not land a job in the CIA, but rather a first-class room in the emergency wing at Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok with Southeast Asia’s first case of dengue hemorrhagic fever of the season! I know, I know, I’m a trendsetter…what can I do?)
10. “If I email Arianna Huffington explaining to her the ways in which her best-selling women’s self-help book has changed my life, maybe she’ll take me on as her protégé!” (Yeah… about that. If anyone has her email address, please hook a sister up, because on second thought I don’t think this one’s really all that crazy…)
11. “If my neck breaks from hunching over my laptop in the world’s worst posture, maybe I’ll end up like Steven Hawking and can make money by going on tour to present my theories on the danger of modern-day electronics and their sinister effects on the lives of our youth…”
In short, caffeine is quite powerful, and I advise all you creative types to use it with discretion. They should put a warning label on these things:
“Consume with Caution. Coffee has a tendency to imbue the consumer with a false sense of confidence, leading him/her to pursue ideas that are in no way close to reality.”
Come to think of it, though, I wonder what Obama drinks with his breakfast… And what was coursing through the veins all those GOP-ers who stayed up all night to pass the Tax reform on New Years Eve. More to come?