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I could give up coffee ... but I'm not a quitter

I'm cutting back on caffeine.

It won’t be pretty.

No brag ... just fact.

I know this to be true because the last time I cut back on caffeine, it wasn’t pretty.

Same for the time before that.

And so on.

You’ll notice I said “cutting back,” and not “cutting out.”

Evidence to the contrary, I’m not an idiot — even though, as Abe Lincoln once said, caffeine makes you do stupid things quick ... and with more energy.

Might not have been Lincoln. Could have been Dorothy Parker. Or Mark Twain.

Those are the three usually cited as unsubstantiated originated of caustic truisms.

More likely, it was probably just some poor jamoke crafting witticisms for refrigerator magnets in the Acme Refrigerator Magnet Warehouse out at the end of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Still, by “cutting back,” I can give myself the illusion of doing something without, you know, actually doing anything.

It’s like that old brain teaser math teachers liked to spring on you on pop quizzes: The one about how long it would take for all the ice to melt on a pond if it loses half its ice each day.

The answer, at least the answer I gave Miss Flood, was ... “Never.”

In numerical terms, the lack of ice would be zero. You can’t cut something in half and have both halves be zero, so there’s no amount the day before that would allow the pond to be completely devoid of ice.

Miss Flood likely had that same look on her face when she graded my pop quiz.

Speaking of ice, that is how I take my caffeine these days — and have for some time.

Iced coffee in the morning. Two iced teas in the afternoon. Iced decaf at night.

My cutting back, in this instance, refers to eliminating one of the iced teas.

Yeah, I know ... big deal.

Reaching for an early evening bottle filled with iced tea and 70 mg of iced tea isn’t even in the same neighborhood as when I did the slow withdrawal from the twice-daily, quad-shot (iced) espressos of my youth — actually, my mid-40s (which these days seems like my youth).

Draw back to three shots, then two, then single shots — the last of which seemed weaker than my morning Eclipse coffee milk I started drinking ritualistically in my single-digit years ... sometimes poured into a bowl over that morning’s Alpha-Bits.

Southeastern New England in the radical 1960s was a hotbed of hard-core drinkers of milk infused with coffee syrup.

You were an Eclipse family or you were an Autocrat family that chose poorly, there was no middle ground.

The Eclipse bottle featured a cartoon face of a smiling little girl — closed-mouth smile, bright-red cheeks, blonde hair tied into a short, prepubescent ponytail.

Seeing a picture of such a bottle this past week, I noticed a detail that I hadn’t seen before. Her eyes were vacant, blank circles. No light was going to penetrate that darkness.

No wonder they called it Eclipse.

Years of caffeinated soft drinks followed the coffee milk days. You name it, I drank it. I even took the double-dare challenge of drinking Jolt Cola and eating Pop Rocks ... the combination that was said to have killed that “Little Mikey” kid from the Life cereal commercials.

It didn’t kill me; it made me feel stronger. Caffeine (to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Parker or Albert Einstein) just made me feel like having more caffeine.

Newsrooms, at least when I started entering them on a regular basis, were a hotbed of caffeine — particularly once edicts were handed down that, no, it was not an unwritten rule that you were allowed to keep a bottle of Jack in your bottom desk drawer.

Skip forward a few decades and a few million overamped night shifts, and it was time to start cutting back to where we are today ... eliminating half the daily iced tea consumption.

I’d like to say that this latest melting of the ice cap had to do with reading a recent study on the effects of caffeine on the human body — but when I plugged “caffeine health study” into the Googles just now, it came up with 55,100,000 options for me to read ... and, frankly, I’d need more than two daily quad-shots to wade through them all.

Nope, the decision was a lot easier than that. I sat in the cubicle the other night, unable to finish the second tea, when I started asking myself questions.

Why do I even want to finish this? Why did I start it in the first place? Why don’t bottles of ice tea feature pictures of smiling little girls with blonde hair and Black Holes for eyes?

The deed done, I expect to be reaching for tea bottles that aren’t there for a while, but eventually the only noticeable impact is that I might tend toward grumpiness at deadline.

That sound you thought you just heard came from surrounding cubicles.

Besides, it’s not as thought I don’t still have ice to stand upon here. As (honest, I looked it up) Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless.”

Who knew that when exiled to Elba, he passed the time coining witticisms for refrigerator magnets?

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin now writes stupid things a little slower, and with a little less energy, at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com

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