Around this time each year, I come to the realization that I’ve been functioning on false energy for about four months. The late-night cravings and lack of sleep have finally gotten to the point where I’m legitimately concerned with what I’m doing to my body.
But then I forget about it and grab another cup of coffee because I’m still dead to the world. So what if it’s noon on a Saturday? I still need that pick-me-up.
The vicious cycle continues for weeks and weeks before it ever occurs to me that the only reason I’m still awake is due to the perpetual caffeine IV that’s hardwired to my veins.
I know it’s not good for me. I don’t want to have to do this. I really don’t. I would love to get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. But we all know that isn’t really possible while in college. The coffee is a necessary evil.
That’s why I have grown to dislike coffee shops and everything they stand for.
I want to spend less time at them, but you would never guess it based on how frequently I break that rule. I’d love to give it up, but there isn’t a sliver of a chance that I could stay awake.
Once you start patronizing a coffee shop religiously, it slowly starts to consume other aspects of your life. You get to know the people who work there, you find a favorite place to sit and you know the autumn workday playlist better than your own friends’ birthdays.
Then you start going in even when you don’t need coffee, and it’s all downhill from there. Now you’re not only budgeting a disproportionate amount of money for your regular visits, but you’re also spending your free time in an environment you never intended to frequent to begin with.
I never understood why so many students were devoted to studying in coffee shops because, in theory, there’s really no worse place to get work done. It’s the most distracting environment ever.
Between the constant flow of people in and out of the store and the lingering soundtrack of Santana and whining espresso machines, it’s a wonder anything ever gets accomplished.
Not to mention the fact that there is almost never space to move around, save for the one chair in the dark corner where they seem to have eternally forgotten to replace the light bulb. Oh wait, that’s just a part of the café’s “mystique” and “ambiance.” How could I forget?
Only coffee shops could get away with calling a dark, musty half-finished crawlspace an acceptable place to purchase caffeinated beverages for about nine times they’re worth.
I’m not sure who decided dark and ominous was the new rage, but I’m already over it. I need to at least be able to see what I’m inevitably going to burn my tongue on.
Nevertheless, I can’t fault the zombie-esque patrons of coffee shops because I understand them now. They aren’t there because they want to be.
They know full well how unproductive the next two hours are going to be for the minute they sit down and open up their MacBooks. They’re just so used to the environment now that they couldn’t possibly see themselves going anywhere else. It’s an addiction that goes quietly unacknowledged.
Unfortunately, our oblivious devotion to a life of caffeine is unavoidable at some level. We’re not going to stop being busy anytime soon, and we’re certainly not going to be able to get ourselves to bed any earlier than the usual 2-3 a.m.
College culture and coffee culture go hand in hand, and our erratic schedules are always calling for something to keep us awake. As much as I don’t want to have to gulp down coffee just to stay coherent, it’s practically a ritual nowadays.
Maybe someday I’ll bring it on myself to quit the caffeine addiction. But that day is far and away from the day I leave this university, at the very least. No, I don’t need room for cream.
Follow Grant Susman on Twitter @ImGrantSusman