Saturday, February 11, 2012


I have overdosed on caffeine exactly twice.

The first time, it was at the Queen Bean -- the coffee shop where I initiated this blog. The exchange seemed innocent enough. I'd ordered a hazelnut something or other, and the barista said, "You want all four shots with that?" Me (thinking 'Why not? It's early, I've got work to do...'): "Sure."

It didn't hit me for an hour or so. For a while I was zipping right along with my writing, and then all of a sudden, something happened. I started to get panicky. I couldn't hit the keys fast enough, or with any sort of accuracy. I stuttered through a few sentences. Everything around me seemed too loud. I started thinking about my impending deadline, and how much work I still had to do, and how I am not typically a person who does well under pressure, which led me to think that maybe the whole story should be scrapped.

Well. I closed my laptop and called it a day. At home, I went on a cleaning binge.

The second time went much the same. This is because I'm a slow learner, and hadn't fully made the connection -- until it was too late, and the caffeine was working its magic. I then proceeded to do two things you should never do during a caffeine overdose:

1. Drive a car. It was a completely surreal experience -- everyone was going too slow, and the traffic lights seemed to operate with random timing. The dulcet tones of Terri Gross were irritating; I wanted to reach through the dashboard (and time, and space) and take her by the throat. I tapped the steering wheel, then pounded it. I jiggled my knee, whacking it against the steering column. Really, it's amazing I made it home without driving straight through the car in front of me.

2. Pluck eyebrows. Enough said.

The strange thing is that I am an admitted caffeine junkie. It used to be Diet Pepsi; these days, it's unsweetened tea with sugar-free lemonade -- my own version of an Arnold Palmer -- which I brew each morning and suck down straight through dinner. I hit Starbucks twice a week; three or four times in an absolute emergency. I have been known to pull into a drive-through on my way home from night class to grab 32 ounces just to keep me awake. This would be at 9:30, when I fully intend to be snoring by 11. But apparently mainlining small doses of caffeine is nothing compared to the sucker punch of something with "all four shots."

This week, I knew I was going to have serious "time management issues" -- to borrow a phrase from the lovely Tim Gunn. I had research papers to grade, lessons to plan for, an event at my house, a night class to teach, things to bake... and incredible amounts of caffeine to consume.

I might have overdone it a bit yesterday - Starbucks plus an unscheduled stop at a quick-mart when my students left for their half-hour music lesson. Exhausted, I leaned one arm against the wall as I walked down the hallway at work, carefully sidestepping a zillion backpacks. At one point it seemed my eyes weren't working properly -- I read the same sentence five or six times without being about to pick out all the words. At home, it was straight to bed.... where (wait for it... wait for it...) I couldn't sleep. Suddenly, the caffeine from nine hours earlier had kicked in.


This morning, there is a bit of commotion in bed -- suddenly, neither of us has the right amount of covers, and both of us have a deep suspicion that the other is hoarding our share. We stop, regroup and remake the bed in early-morning darkness. Baxter, who is blissfully unaware of the powers of caffeine, stops by to visit. He had a tough day yesterday, too -- a long walk and some serious playing with his new toy. But now he is wide awake, up on the bed with me, licking my face.

I glance at the alarm -- 5:53 on a Saturday morning. It takes a good five minutes to accept my fate, lumber my way to the kitchen, and pour a cup of coffee.

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