Category Archives: Coffee

Caffeine Nation

w-Giant-Coffee-Cup75917Some years ago, my brother went to Disneyland with his family and described morning like a science fiction movie. Each resort hotel sells a “bottomless mug” and, at dawn, as the children shake off sleep, the adults drift toward the cafeteria as if it were an alien mothership, clutching their mugs, stupefied, but compelled by something greater than themselves.

In the words of Neil Young in “After the Gold Rush,” “The loading had begun.”

The average American spends $14.40 a week on coffee and coffee products, and according to the National Coffee Organization, more than 300,000 Americans consume at least ten cups of coffee a day. I think I might vibrate through walls at that dosage, but in Chicago proper, you are never more than a quarter of a mile from a Starbucks. When I put my own address into the Starbucks Locator, I’m limited to 50 locations but I can easily reach that. Sometimes, I wonder whether some caffeine-induced hallucination imagines a Starbucks on every corner and if rubbing my eyes will get the Starbucks out of them. When my children were small, watching the second Shrek movie, I noticed people fleeing a soon-to-be crushed Farbucks during some mayhem—firmly gripping Ventis in hand—and running into another soon-to-be crushed Farbucks across the street.

Across the street from my school you will find—surprise—a Starbucks. All day, two or three desperate colleagues inch forward as if Starbucks served air. I know this because I’m with them. I too need a wake-up cup, or the one that focuses the start the day, or the quick cup to stave off lulls during the day, or the cup I sip even when it grows cold.

I’m not ready to repudiate my habit, so, if you’re expecting a hair-yanking rejection of the devil’s juice, I wish I were your man, but I’m a devotee. That warm feeling in my back pocket is my Starbucks card ionized by use. I cling to every jot of evidence of caffeine’s benefits—it’s an excellent training drug for athletes, it improves concentration and learning, it contains anti-oxidants, it may help you stay slim.

So what if cigarette makers once made similar claims? Coffee is the true opiate of the masses.

I’d say I’m in denial, but how can you be in denial and know it? Truth is, I meant to quit out of pure orneriness—I’m no corporate dupe—but always have too much to do. It’s just a bad time, I tell myself, for a caffeine withdrawal headache… or a three-day nap. I’ve been caffeinated almost constantly for the last thirty years.

Someone is going to have to stage an intervention, no coffee allowed. Starbucks, if your spies are out watching cyberspace, listen to my plea. Start closing stores now—diversify into ‘shrooms or peyote—and save us from ourselves.


Filed under America, Chicago, Coffee, Essays, Identity, Jeremiads, Laments, Sturm und Drang, Thoughts, Worry