Stepping on the coffee brake

McDonald’s and Winchell’s, are, of course, known for burgers and doughnuts respectively, but another thing they have in common is good coffee. I’ve planned many an errand on Saipan, and elsewhere, around getting my coffee fix at such places. For me, coffee is often the key driver that gets me in the door.

Unfortunately, I’ve had the coffee habit called into question. Earlier this month I spent an afternoon with a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. We went to a temple, then we had lunch, then we went to a cafe. We weren’t discussing medicine or anything related to it, up until the point, that is, when the doctor noted that over the course of several hours I had downed several cups of coffee.

Well, yes, I sure did. She, by contrast, had demurely imbibed just one cup of tea.

Although my coffee habit doesn’t raise any eyebrows in my circles, probably because my pals share the same practice, the doctor thought this was such an unhealthy routine that it compelled commentary. Is this a mere cultural difference? Or is there something more important at work? I don’t know. But she doesn’t strike me as the meddlesome or the finger-wagging type. If something makes her speak up it’s probably worth heeding.

I asked her how much coffee is OK for people to drink. She said, without equivocation, one cup a day.

One cup of coffee per day? That’s so extreme I can’t even cheat the specification by asking how big the cup can be.

This is yet one more example of why the older I get, the less I like surprises.

I was going to delve further into this matter by asking about the logic behind it. And, in fact, I thought it would make an item of interest worth sharing with Saipan Tribune readers: “The Secret to Long Life, Read it Here!”

However, on second thought, I chickened out. It’s easier for me to preemptively reject logic that I haven’t been exposed to yet. Saves time. Saves worry.

Furthermore, I think I’ve got a work-around here. The next time I make lunch plans with the doctor I’m going to put a pack of cigarettes in my shirt pocket. This will serve as a bad-habit decoy. It will draw any flack while the coffee thing evades notice. Hopefully, things will fall back to normal at that point.

Like most of my bright ideas, though, this one had pitfalls that became visible after the honeymoon period wore off. For example, what if the decoy cigarettes don’t provoke any remarks but the coffee thing comes up again? This would only aggravate my worries. Then what?

Well, if Edgar Allen Poe could indulge morbid curiosity about a near-death experience (in a ghoulish exercise called “mesmerism,”), I figured I could be just as brave and try a near no-coffee experience. If the experiment made a martyr out of me, then perhaps my fellow coffee hounds would put up a statue in my honor.

Well, as it turns out, the statue won’t be necessary.

Fortunately, I found that just one cup of day was sufficient to avoid headaches or other ailments commonly associated with caffeine withdrawals.

In fact, the hardest thing about the one-cup routine was checking my habit of chasing the first cup of the day with a second cup. This one-two punch has been reflex since high school. Outside of that, though, once the day got rolling and I had other things to think about, it wasn’t a big deal. I’d still rather drink coffee than not drink coffee, but I guess I don’t have to sip the stuff all the time.

I guess some habits aren’t as important as we think they are.

For example, when I was in corporate life I used to spend about 30 minutes a day reading the financial news. One day I neglected to do this, only to realize that I was no worse off for the oversight. That 30 minutes a day, of course, was better spent doing actual work. Well, make that 29 minutes on a net basis, since I would still spend a minute or so scanning the key pages. Outside of that, though, if there was something newsworthy it had a way of finding its way to my desk anyway, generally via a clipping from a colleague or via general office conversation.

Anyway, back in the coffee world, I ran the one-cup experiment for seven days. I have no idea if I’ll revert to my old habits or not. In the meantime, I’ve inked a lunch date for next week and I’ve got to make a decision: regular or menthol?

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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