A Catalyst, An OTC Drug, A Bad Taste In My Mouth


I seem to have begun drinking coffee lately.

It started with the writers-group meetings at coffee houses – I would drink a cup of coffee or tea (or two) each time we met, once or twice a week.

Then my schedule at work changed – I had been getting off work around 7 and on Mondays and Wednesdays I would have a cup of coffee by about 7:30 – and now I work until 9. I started getting those caffeine-withdrawl headaches around 7:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays – so I started drinking the coffee they provide here at work. I’d drink before the headache came to prevent it, and the headaches came earlier and earlier, and now instead of headaches, around 6PM I just crave a cup of coffee.

Of course, drinking coffee two (or three, or four, as the cravings increased) nights a week after 6PM has the obvious effect of keeping me awake somewhat late. Usually not much later than I seem to be staying up anyway, just usually I’m more alert the whole time instead of my consciousness dwindling away as lateness grows each night and 2 or 3AM approaches. Still, staying up later at night corresponds with getting less sleep and/or waking up later in the morning, and in the last several weeks I’ve been finding myself drinking coffee when I get to work in the morning, as well.

All of this is … unusual. Not in the least because I think coffee tastes pretty horrible. When I get coffee at coffee houses and/or Starbucks, I tend to get very complex, overly sweet concoctions that completely cover up the taste of the coffee. In fact, I typically take five to fifteen minutes trying to order, discussing options with the baristas, trying to come up with something that will have the most caffeine and taste the least like coffee (it usually ends up tasting like drinking delicious candy and giving me a delicious caffeine buzz). And yet, here at work, the ingedients available are black coffee, non-dairy creamer, sugar and sugar substitutes – and I seem to drink that stuff okay without going overboard on the sugar. (Realizing, of course, that I can’t afford hundreds or thousands of calories in each cup of coffee, I seem to use a mix of about 1 teaspoon of sugar to 3 or 4 packets of equal to sweeten each 15oz cup of coffee – equal isn’t quite right alone, but a little sugar makes a big difference for mouthfeel and that chemical taste.)

For reference, however, by example: The last cup of ‘coffee’ I had at Starbucks (on Friday) tasted somewhat like drinking a hot brownie or liquid s’mores (no, no graham cracker chunks) and had me smilling and giggling happily every time I tasted even a small sip of it. The coffee around here, regardless of how much or how little sweetener (real or chemical) or creamer I put in it, typically has me grimacing and gulping it down as quickly as I can. I have been tempted to just throw out a few cups of it, actually.

I am fairly confident that this has something to do with who makes the coffee, though … the machine is so simple to use, I’m not sure how one screws it up. Based on the taste I get when I brew the coffee myself (usually I have to do this when I want coffee after 7PM, though through some sort of psychic link with the coffee machine, a couple of people always seem to appear as soon as the coffee is brewed, regardless of the arms on the clock) compared to when it’s horrible, I would guess they are using half the correct amount of coffee grounds.

Now, you may be asking yourself, especially if you have known me in person, why don’t I just drink Mountain Dew or Diet Mountain Dew or any of a number of sodas to get the caffeine? Well – coffee shops (which is a social gathering place I appreciate) charge about as much for a soda as for a basic coffee, and usually don’t have mountain dew (my preferred soda). And at work, coffee is free.

Not to mention one of my 15oz cups of coffee has as much caffeine as about 4 cans of Mountain Dew.

So, one of the things that I’ve been appreciating about staying caffeinated is that my mind is … ‘less focused’ – not in a bad way, though; in an ‘I can simultaneously think about more things at once with a high level of accuracy, effectiveness, and meaningfulness than I would otherwise be able’ sort of way. I don’t have the equipment together to test it right now, but I bet I could go back to the ‘listening to three or more different simultaneous sources of music at once’ thing that I used to do all the time when I couldn’t decide between classical, oldies, alternative, and any number of my CDs or tapes – I don’t remember doing that since High School… Huh. The only downside (and it is reasonably manageable) is that my mind tends to run so fast and on so many tracks at once that if I don’t write/type things down/out, I lose track of them. Luckily, I pretty much always have paper and writing implements on hand. I’ve even begun carrying a pencil and eraser along with my pens so that I can draw/scetch things out if I need to.

The problem with all of this, this progression, is that I am now considering purchasing some solution for making coffee at home.

((You knew I was coming around to a point eventually, right?))

Now, obviously this doesn’t make sense. My home is not social, and any solution I select will cost money (I haven’t looked into it yet – is it more or less than buying Diet Mountain Dew?), so those arguments for drinking coffee are right out. I suppose it’ll come down to some sort of caffeine/($+effort) calculation… and while I’m comfortable with the lifestyle choice of “wake up in the morning with a nice cup of … Diet Mountain Dew” – it is a lifestyle choice that is generally incompatible with beginning one’s day away from one’s own home, and with most people’s minds who might see one do it. Heck, if I could buy OTC caffeine patches to wear that would give me a regulated dose of caffeine continuously thoughout the day – or just buy modafinil – I would.

Of course, if someone had some recommendations, used coffee equipment (because coffee requires equipment that diet soda does not), and alternate sources of caffeine that I might appreciate better, I would welcome them. Also, any information on how to get my hands on modafinil ( provigil / modiodal ) would be handy. Last time I went to Mexico to buy prescription drugs, none of the pharmacies carried it.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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