Straight Up Until Morning

I have a few, shall we say, unique personality traits, something my friends would no doubt be perfectly happy to discuss at length, and probably have to their therapists. One of those adjectives that could be used to described my personality, besides “dashing,” “impressive,” and “prevaricator,” would be “uninitiated,” or, for those with simpler tastes, “lazy.”

I’m not lazy in that brother-in-law college slacker student way, but more of the not-wanting-to-get-out-of-the-chair-to-change- the-station-so-I-guess-I’ll-just-watch-Flip This House way. I’ve found myself often getting increasingly sleepy, unable to concentrate on such important tasks as reading through my mail, sitting through meetings, or staring at the back of the skirt that redhead was wearing yesterday at the coffee shop. Boosting my energy level seemed to suddenly be a rather top priority, and I was willing to undergo pretty much any sort of experiment so long as it did not require me to pay out to, or, more importantly, speak with a doctor or anyone else in any way involved in the medical community.

Instead of, you know, getting enough sleep or exercising to increase my energy level, I decided to try something different: an energy drink.

Now, under normal circumstances I rate energy drinks as a standard-issue scam, one step below electroshock weight loss and one step above Michael Bloomberg. I have no doubt that energy drinks are chock full of special Tibetan herbs and ancient Polynesian spice combinations, but I pretty much assume they just inject about a hectare of caffeine in it and throw some lemon rinds in it to make it not come back up after you chug it. I see these energy bars, which are pretty much Snickers but with 2% less calories but 2000% more carbs which somehow makes them healthy, much like how Cookie Crisp is part of a healthy breakfast assuming your breakfast includes toast, a glass of OJ, and a shot of insulin, and assume energy drinks are only one branch away from them in the nutritional supplement tree.

I also consider another strike against energy drinks: they cost too damn much. Somehow, they’ve suckered people into purchasing slim cans of the nectar small enough to fit into the chamber of most handguns, yet somehow have the marketing nads to charge nearly four times as much as a regular can of soda. They’re even ugly, too—silver or gold-patterned cans with some retro logo on it, as if people will associate this drink with the late seventies. Somehow someone determined that having people wanting to be all jumpy and hyper like they were during an era of 21% interest rates is somehow a selling point.

However, in the interests of science, I decided that it would be worth my time to check out these energy drinks. (Always on the cutting edge, I am. It’s only been about four years since they hit the shelves. The next consumer report I’m doing is going to be either on Furbys or OS/2.) I picked the most popular energy drink, Red Bull, at least evidenced by the annoying commercial-to-consumption ratio. And I chose a day of my own choosing, in this case Thursday, since I kind of forgot about it on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

My daily routine is largely determined by forces outside of my control, but generally speaking it revolves around 1) waking up tired 2) driving to work tired 3) working tired 4) driving home tired and, finally, 5) not being able to get to sleep. On the day of my experiment, I chugged a tall can of Red Bull and waited for my world to open up and present me with a landscape of perpetual harmony and orgasmic bliss.

You know that feeling you get when your have been laying on your arm for an hour or so watching Cribs and you cut off its circulation, then there’s that awkward, vaguely painful sensation as the blood swirls its way through your arm? Well, picture that sensation happening to the internal organs of your body, and that’s what happened to me for about forty seconds after I drank the energy drink. And that was it. I was, as I always am, somewhat underwhelmed.

Perhaps I was just too hasty, though. I spent most of the day at work kind of jumpy, but for me “kind of jumpy” means that I don’t fall asleep quite as quickly as normal when I’m running reports or something. I’m pretty sure I felt differently, but any kind of change causes my body to react differently to its environment, such as eating Corn Flakes instead of Froot Loops or the Doha Round.

So while I’m not going to be dismissive of the drinks, I’m not holding them up as any particularly shining example of a medical success. A decade-old can of Jolt seems like it would have the same effect only with less of an aluminum taste (though, I venture to say, not by much). I’ll have to run some more control experiments, such as drinking it before I go to bed; drinking it before I eat breakfast, drinking it during lunch, and drinking it before I shell out $2.00 for another 10 ounces of caffeinated hummingbird syrup.

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