I’m not a big fan of energy drinks, normally. I think they’re merely caffeine dressed up with whatever trendy chemicals some Madison Avenue assholes think will appeal to the average consumer. Trust me, if ground placenta became trendy, you’d be seeing cans of Rock Star for sale complete with umbilical cord. So for the most part I just drink coffee. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper, and I can be pretty sure that Chinese dissidents were not drowned in the vat it came out of.
I live in Arizona, however, and quite often the temperature of a scalding hot cup of coffee is only several degrees lower than the inside of my car, so sometimes it is nice to get a jolt of energy from an ice cold energy drink. Yesterday, I had a double-strength Rock Star after going hiking in the mountains with my daughter. A few hours later, I goofily chugged a triple-strength rock star in the grocery store as we were doing the weekly grocery shopping. Total caffeine intake for the day: 400 mg, or the equivalent of four cups of coffee. My reaction: Meh. It didn’t do very much to me. (Well, it didn’t do much to me at the time. Later on that evening I took a leak and it looked like I’d been eating yellow highlighters all day.)
It’s not too surprising that it didn’t have a huge effect on me. My body is used to long periods of time with little to no caffeine punctuated by huge spikes in consumption, the kind of spikes that would raise the dead. The first time I went overboard, I was in college and pulling an all-nighter. I really didn’t drink coffee at all until college, and then my beverage of choice was more likely to be consumed out of the belly button of a willing coed than it was at a coffee shop. But it was 4:00 AM, and I was woefully unprepared for an exam the next day. I needed a pick-me-up, so I put on a pot of coffee.
Twenty minutes later I absentmindedly poured the entire pot of coffee into one of those ridiculous 192 ounce 7-11 Big Gulp cups that they use to give diabetes to truckers. I added cream & sugar, and sat down at my desk. Another twenty minutes later I went to get another cup of joe and looked at the empty pot without realizing where the contents had gone. “Huh. I thought I made a full pot of coffee,” I thought to myself. So I made another one, and guzzled it just like the first.
Twenty minutes after that, I noticed that I wasn’t so much studying as I was vibrating around the room, flailing my arms as if I was a drummer for a thrash-metal band. Then, and only then did I realize that I’d consumed over 24 cups of coffee in a 40 minute window. Yowza. I decided to call the student health center on the off chance that I would get a wrong number and be connected to someone who wouldn’t give me disastrously bad medical advice. (Seriously, the student health center at my university was hilariously incompetent, even to the point of diagnosing rare and fatal diseases to kids who showed up just to score pain meds.)
“Hi, my name is Shelley, how may I help you today?” asked a perky voice. Normally people who are perky in the morning piss me off, but I was rather perky myself this morning, and I was just glad to have someone to talk to.
Me: HI! I DRANK A FUCKING ASSLOAD OF COFFEE! AAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHH! HAHA! SORRY! SO, WHAT SHOULD I DO? I’M FUCKING WIGGING OUT!
Shelley: Ok, how much coffee did you drink, and in what period of time?
Me: WHOOOOOOAAAAAAHHHHH!!! TWENTY FOUR CUPS OF COFFEE IN 40 FUCKING MINUTES! HAHAHAHAHA!!!
Shelley: What!? Twenty-four cups of coffee! Why would you do that?
Me: I DUNNO. IT JUST KIND OF HAPPENED! AAAUUUGGGHHH! SO WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR ME? I FEEL LIKE I’M GROWING REALLY TALL AND MY TEETH ARE SHIVERING.
Shelley: Ok, we’re going to take your pulse. I want you to feel your pulse and begin counting when I say go, all right? Don’t stop until I tell you to. Ok… ready? Go!
Me: (two seconds later) OK, THIS ISN’T GOING TO WORK
Shelley: What? It hasn’t been 15 seconds yet! You have to keep counting!
Me: NO, MY PULSE IS GOING WHUMP … WHUMPWHUMPWHUMP… WHUMPWHUMP… … … WHUMP… WHUMPOW!
Shelley: You need to get down here. Do you want me to send you an ambulance?
Me: NO, I FEEL LIKE RUNNING. I’LL BE THERE IN 14 SECONDS.
Needless to say, the health center spent over an hour attaching an EKG to me, and then a doctor looked at the readout for all of fifteen seconds before telling me, “Too much caffeine. Go home. Stay away from coffee, tea, and soda. Also, you have Ebola.”
I laid off of coffee for a while after that. Thinking that your heart is going to explode will do that to you. Then, about a year later, a roommate and I found one of those old, industrial brewing pots that they use to serve coffee at AA meetings and whatnot. Large, metal, slightly dented, and with a plastic spigot at the bottom, it looked to hold roughly 12 pots of coffee. As we were about to kick off an all night Techmo-Bowl football tournament featuring lots of weed, we decided that it might be handy to have a little caffeine handy.
“I don’t know, dude. I had a pretty big freakout with coffee last year,” I said.
“Oh, you know what? We’ve got tea! We can just drink that. It’s not as strong as coffee, so you should be good.”
Of course tea is not necessarily weaker than coffee, and since we let our huge pot brew all night long (we never took the bags out), it very well may have contained triple the amount. At the end of the tournament, I remember winning the final game and taking a victory lap around the house, which soon turned into ten laps. “What the fuck are you doing, dude?” asked one of my roommates.
“Dude, c’mon out here! Running feels AWESOME!!!!” If my neighbors had been awake, they would’ve seen four stoners running wind sprints around a house at 5:00 in the morning.
Just a couple of years later, I lived in Tucson, Arizona, working for a company selling tools to construction workers. It was an incredibly strange job, with rampant drug use coupled with employer sponsored booze, illegal phone tactics, and strange work hours. We worked a split-shift, from 5:00 – 10:00 AM, then 3:00 – 7:00 PM, six nights a week. The end result of this was that what little sleep you got was often used to filter the pot and beer out of your system, leaving you in a constant state of sleep deprivation. In other words, it was just like what all the other twenty-something new entrants to the job market were going through.
And so we got by on what we called Cowboy Coffee. Here’s the recipe:
- Coffee grounds
- An IQ below 90
Instructions (as shouted to the newbies in the office)
Empty two packets of coffee grounds into a filter. Not one, you fucking pussy, TWO! Add water and the let the coffeemaker do its thing. WAIT! Don’t fucking drink that! Pour the coffee back into the machine and let it brew again! Ok, that thick, syrupy, tar-like substance? Yeah, THAT’S coffee!
We drank that shit non-stop throughout the day. Finally, I started having some weird problems that escalated into something requiring medical attention, and I found myself explaining to a doctor that I was having shooting pains in my manliest of manly regions. The doctor performed an exam, took some blood, and came back in the office asking a lot of questions, finally ending with, “Do you drink coffee?”
Me: Oh, yeah, that’s gonna be it. Ok, thanks, doc.
Doc: Well, wait a minute, how much do you drink?
Me: Uhhh… An unmeasurable amount? I don’t know. A lot.
He had me explain to him the recipe for Cowboy Coffee. “Holy Jesus, don’t do that!” he said. Whatever faults that doctor may have had, speaking in overly technical terms certainly wasn’t one of them.
Although coffee (and occasionally tea) was the primary delivery vehicle for caffeine, it wasn’t the only one. Hall of Fame commenter B’Homey was present when we had the brilliant idea to supplement the unholy cocktail of drugs we were on at the time with Vivarin, an energy pill containing about 2 cups of coffee per pill. Being retarded college students, however, we weren’t content with just swallowing the pills, thus setting up the scene in which a particularly straight-laced roommate named Lee walked in on us snorting mysterious blue lines the length of a desktop. We put that guy through a lot. One time, a goofball we partied with flipped out on acid and fell hard to the floor. Lee immediately ran into the hallway shouting “EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!” at the top of his lungs before we corralled him, pulled him back into the room, and patiently explained that people on acid do weird things, and we certainly don’t want to involve the police or other emergency personnel when they do.
Another time, an old girlfriend convinced me to take her to see Steve Miller in concert. Steve Miller is ok, I guess, but a little too middle of the road for my taste, and I so enhanced for the concert: A pint of whiskey, a whole lot of weed, and twelve Mini-Thins, which contain broncho-dialators and caffeine in high amounts. That was the only time in my life that I felt that my hair was stoned. (My strategy worked, by the way. The concert was great.)
I often fall victim to that very American belief that if a little of something is good, a whole fucking shitload of it must be… well… a whole fucking shitload better. I did it with pot, I did it with booze, with cigarettes, and I certainly did it with caffeine. And although I’m now older and allegedly wiser, and have curbed my excesses to match a lifestyle in which crashing on people’s couches and sporadic employment is no longer an option, I do find myself falling into old patterns if I don’t watch it.
Cowboy Coffee may be a bit much for me now, and certainly snorting Vivarin and chasing broncho-dialators with whiskey and pot is out of the question. But comically oversized cans of energy drink? Sure, why the fuck not? What’s the harm? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom. Again.