Journey of a Late Coffee Bloomer

With a lover’s voice
it calls to me; willingly
I follow, unmoored.
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I have been caffeine free since around 1995. It was at that time I decided 10 or so cans of Diet Coke a day couldn’t possibly be good for me, so I stopped drinking them and changed exclusively to water and the occasional OJ. Then, about a year ago, in our annual trek to Georgia for Thanksgiving, I ordered coffee to assist me in the late day/night drive.

image from Wikipedia

Wow. When caffeine isn’t part of your life, re-entry has quite an impact. I was up until 2am that morning, having safely made the 9 hour journey with nary a yawn. I made a strategic choice starting then: to use caffeine, specifically coffee, in a pharmaceutical capacity to aid my attentiveness and productivity.

It was amazing. One cup of coffee plus a clear few hours on my calendar resulted in tremendous output. I was able to rebound from sleep-shortened nights quickly.  Sure, I picked up the habit of tapping out a complex drum solo on my desk while reading, and my kids likely noticed that the “after high” was not the best time to be around me. But I could control it. I could turn it off and on.

Or could I? I am now drinking one to two cups a day and I’m ashamed. I feel like I’ve succumbed to a lover from the wrong side of the tracks… the kind good girls like me are attracted to in a “he would never look at me with those brooding eyes but if he did I know I could rock his world” and then “I could change him so that everyone could see that he has a heart of gold” kind of way.  I’ve kept up with my “I use coffee medicinally only” story,  trying to pretend that I’m still caffeine free since 1995, but it’s a lie. I love the burst of speed I get. I love the clarity. I love the little ritual at the Starbucks at work (we have one in the lobby) where I wait patiently to add my cream and 2 Splendas to my coffee. I don’t do anything but a plain cup of brew, as I lack the experience or nerve to take the relationship further. And I refuse to call the small size “tall” out of principle. Otherwise, I feel cool for the first time ever, all because of a drink.

There is only one downside: the vacating colon 90 minutes in. This is not something they talk about in the commercials… there is great marketing synergy there: a joint advertising campaign between Folgers and Charmin, perhaps. Not sure why they don’t test that one out. (The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup… and Charmin in the john…)  My coffee habit beginnings coincided with a change of assignment at work, so I’m in a new building with new bathroom rituals (long-suffering followers of this blog well know my fascination with bathrooms and the behaviors and etiquette therein).  So the exploding colon bit has been a little difficult to maneuver.  The good news is that the bathroom is much closer to my office. The bad news is twofold: open offices and only 2 stalls. Do you know how hard it is to disguise the butt-pucker shuffle in cube land?  It’s hard enough to make yourself look normal from the waist up, when passing closed offices with small-windowed doors, but open offices afford the full body view and the quick-paced bottom-tuck position is incredibly noticeable. The only good news is that since people don’t really know me, they might have just assumed I happened to have an unusual gait. And since I’ve varied my flight path unpredictably, and so many people work from home, I’m counting on no one really paying that much attention. The two stall issue is one I just have to suffer through… don’t ask.

So with all these data points — increased productivity and output on one side, colon health (a different type of output) and public embarrassment on the other side — I’m at a cross roads. Should I continue my caffeine-aided lifestyle and just live with the downsides?  Or return to the land of the self-righteous and caffeine free (and slightly less productive)?  I can already see that one to two cups isn’t going to work much longer. Today, my one cup after lunch couldn’t overcome a coma-inducing lunch… So what’s next? A regular second or third cup each day? Where do I stop?

I think I have my answer. I must go back… go back and find that energy source I had before I starting experimenting. The one that exists naturally within me and doesn’t require stealth tactics in my gastrointestinal rituals. I already feel my self-esteem slipping away, as I move away from, as usual, the “in-crowd”, back to the land of the unique and self-proclaimed happy-I’m-different group. I know that is where I belong… but it was good while it lasted.

Asparagus Pee and Other Bathroom Musings

There is a fine line.
Wondering if I crossed it…
Or just nudged it some.

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Not sure why, and not sure I really want to delve into why, but every time lately when I enter a bathroom I begin studying what is happening rather intently. My own habits, the habits of others, where things are placed, how we behave towards each other while in there, etc. I have come to realize several rather startling things. So of course, I’m going to tell you about them now.

1. I wonder what cavemen thought when, after eating asparagus, their pee smelled funny.  Personally, I wondered once when it happened many years ago, Google’d it and learned all about it. Now when it happens I just nod in understanding. How odd to have it happen to you 20,000 years ago and not understand. “Ugh… ugh ugh… UGGGHHH!” I would love to see that cave drawing…

File:Asparagus image.jpg

image from Wikipedia

2. Do you ever want to apologize when you are at work and have to go #2 and it is the most appalling smell ever and someone comes in the bathroom? I have so been tempted to say something like “I’m sorry, something died in my colon… they aren’t sure what it is but they said it would eventually stop.” or the more fun version ” Boy, howdy! What in the good lord’s name did I eat? That’s the last time I have Skyline Chili with a White Castle chaser!” Like I said, very tempting…

3. Point 2 is made all the worse when there are only two stalls. At least when there are three stalls I feel a little better that the person can get away.

4.   But then when there are 3 stalls (and point 2 above is still in play), and I’m politely ensconced in the end stall… why in blazes does the newcomer take the middle stall? My god, can’t you smell that? Get away!!

5. Are you a stall skipper or fill-er-in-er? In point 4, and assuming a normal circumstance, would you leave a polite gap between you and the other person or sidle up nice and close? I’m a skipper.

6. Do you have a favorite stall?

7. I read an article once that the cleanest public toilet seat is the toilet closest to the door. No one wants to pick the first stall because they assume everyone picks it, but for just that reason, it IS the cleanest. Who does this testing? And what does that mean about the stall furthest from the door? Ewww.

8. Why haven’t those little garbage cans evolved even the slightest in the last 50 years?  I’ve seen the versions in other countries – they are cool. But we get these WWI leftovers for some reason.

9. Do you think urinal cakes, like their edible cousins, are now being replaced by urinal cupcakes?

10.  What is it about public toilet door construction that they can’t manufacture it with a smaller gap? While out today at an art fair, the gap was thicker than my palm.  I leaned to the side, somehow convincing myself that if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. (Beevis & Butthead moment… art fair…. fart air…. heh heh, heh heh…)

11. No matter what, while walking past a bathroom at work at the exact moment someone opens the door to exit it, I have to look at them. What am I expecting to see?  I even do it when it is a men’s room. It is mortifying… almost a reflex. I really have to concentrate when it happens to not lift my gaze. Weird.

12. I brought in a can of air freshener for one of the bathrooms at work. And now I’m totally creeped out to pick it up. Do you wash your hands first and then spray it? Or try to quickly cover your tracks and wash second. And regardless of what you do, what did the person before you do? I’ve stopped using that particular bathroom now…

Not at all sure how to wrap this up. Crumple or fold…

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