A brief, rational treatise on going without

I Can’t Drink Caffeine


If I were to drink caffeine my torso would explode. My cardiologist, who I can only assume double majored in pre-med and “buzzkill”1 as an undergrad, told me if I didn’t avoid nicotine use (not an issue), moderate my alcohol intake (I had to look up what that meant) and completely curb caffeine intake, I’d end up re-staging the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique scene in Kill Bill, in which I would play both Uma Thurman and David Caradine2. What I’m saying is it’d be coronary suicide to caffeinate myself. What’s more, my other doctor (I collect them) laid it out to me that without the same restrictions, my gut would go all Return-Of-The-Jedi-Death-Star-Explosion scene, in which I would simultaneously be the Death Star itself and a proton-torpedo-firing, faithful cult member.

Full disclosure: I haven’t stopped drinking alcohol. I do moderate myself much more than in days of yore, when my torso wasn’t a land mine3. But as far as stimulating beverages go, I don’t touch the stuff anymore, and haven’t for over two years. That means no Diet Coke, no Red Bull and no caffeinated cups o’ Joe. When I meet a pal for coffee or take a java break or grab my morning cup of mud… I have to order a decaf.

That’s right. I drink decaf: the kiddie table of drinks, the bastard child of enjoyment.

In restaurants, I try to catch servers as they leave my table, hope I’m out of earshot of my companions, and mutter it under my breath. I try to be last in line so only the barista can hear my order. But, regardless of how clandestine I am, I always have the distinctive feeling that everyone within a couple blocks has heard what I’ve said. I imagine “record stop” needle scratch noises, car tires squealing and dishes crashing to the floor as everyone in unison screams “WHAT’S THE POINT, LOSER?”





I know what you’re thinking to yourself: “There’s caffeine in decaf coffee, you dumb idiot.” Well I know the caffeine can’t be totally extracted from beans. I know something like 5% is left behind4. I’m also well aware that if I ever keel over from a caffeine heart explosion somehow caused by that damn 5%, the nurse is going to look at my chart, see I had one cup too many right before I kicked the bucket, shake her head and say, “What a dumbass. There’s still caffeine in decaf. He should have KNOWN”. I’m going to look like an ignorant jagweed, and they’ll probably write as much on my toe tag. Maybe I should tattoo “I’m Just Trying to Fit In” on my chest in the hopes of explaining why I continue the shameful decaf charade.

Decaf just isn’t the same as the real deal (which is an obvious point to make, though I’m going to belabor it all the same). I miss the old days when I would walk around strung out on triple shot macchiatos, recklessly endangering my blood pressure with gusto. I can’t drink a pot of coffee for breakfast like I did mere years ago; I can’t go to my favorite diner and chug cup after refilled cup; I can’t drink espresso; I can’t intake the stuff until I shake violently and talk like Shoshanna from “Girls” and hallucinate. And it’s awful. I wasn’t a caffeine addict before by any means, but I want that caffeine, man. I deserve it. Dammit, I’m being denied a basic human right! Sometimes I actually have to sleep when my body gets tired! Decaf limits my sinning! Drinking decaf coffee is worse than having to pay taxes. It’s more unpleasant than a middle school orchestra concert. It’s worse than Twilight5.

Drinking Decaf is like driving a Radio Flyer wagon on the Autobahn. It’s like watching a “Breaking Bad” where Walt is played by Shia LaBeouf. It’s like finding out the moon landing really was staged, but instead of Kubrick the thing was directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It’s like having the hots for a famous football player’s girlfriend but finding out she never existed in the first place, or like thinking Beyoncé is flawless in every way but finding out she lip syncs sometimes. Drinking decaf puts me one step closer to having something in common with Mitt Romney. If coffee were the Ghostbusters, decaf would be Louis Tully.

It’s just not that great, guys, but don’t get me wrong — I don’t want your pity; I’m no martyr either. I just wish I had the physical fortitude to partake in the world’s most commonly used drug. I miss my palpitations, my stuttering. But I don’t want to detonate my ribcage or dissolve my intestines, so I keep away from the stuff. So the next time you raise your World’s Best Coffee Drinker mug and take a sip, think about how good you have it. And then think about your torso combusting and being blown to smithereens, because it’s probably going to happen someday, you lucky S.O.B., you.

1. Buzz!!! Two jokes in one!
2. Note the absence of an erotic asphyxiation joke. Welcome to the high road, folks.
3. To be fair, booze isn’t really that much like coffee anyhow. It stops jitters, for one. And if you wake up in the morning and have a few mugs full of the stuff your day is going to be markedly different than a coffee drinker’s.
4. Being able to keep 5% of something is worse than losing it all. “We were able to salvage 5% of your Bentley – the entire trunk! Congrats!”
5. It SUCKS, guys.