500 Words, Day Three / by dan turner

Today I'll take Christina's prompt of "think of a door" to mean a metaphorical door, a door of perception to some. Yes, we're talking caffeine. Given that I didn't want to skip an early morning training ride, have a most-of-the-day job interview this afternoon, and am rewarding myself with a sketchnoting class after that, I gave in and had a hit. Of caffeine. Just to be clear.

So today I'll toss together some random and possibly familiar facts about caffeine and a story about my first real encounter with it.

1. "Caffeine" is one of those words I constantly forget how to spell. It's not a physical thing, as my regular mistyping of <del>newtork</del> network; I just rarely use it (see #2 and others) and the e before i trips me sometimes.

2. I don't drink coffee. Actually, I like the taste of decaf (black), to the point of recognizing that Starbucks is not actually good coffee, but I've avoided the cultural standard of a cuppa joe because I don't want to need it, and past experiences with it (see #7).

3. I will use some sports nutrition products, such as a Clif Shot, with a bit of caffeine, before races or to perk up deep into long training rides. Or for times when I have a lot of stuff to do and have slept poorly, as today. These products generally have about as much caffeine as a strong cup or two of green tea, which I do drink.

4. Caffeine is a natural pesticide. Though I don't think that's why it works well in home composting. Which it does.

5. You can build a tolerance to caffeine. This leads to physiological effects of withdrawal. Caffeine molecules pass through the blood/brain barrier and are shaped like the neurotransmitters that signal our brain that we're awake. When the brain encounters regular surpluses of molecules of this shape, it will grow more receptor stalks. If you don't fill all those stalks, you'll not feel awake (see #2).

6. I used to work in the 24-hour coffeehouse at my college. People would try to game the line so that they could get the last pour from the drip coffee pot; they thought that sludge had the most caffeine in it.

7. One day in college I was at work and realized I had varsity practice, a good chunk of reading for the next day's classes, a philosophy paper due despite the fact I'd barely started it, and I was exhausted. And felt depressed and doomed. So in desperation I tried what everyone else seemed to do: I had one cup of coffee (from the bottom of the pot). After practice I was cheerfully powering through my outline of my argument with Descartes, and I realized, physically, that I'd taken a MIND-ALTERING DRUG. I'd gone from dead and depressed to gleeful and zooming, and I was aware of it. So maybe that's why you have you morning triple shot. No judgments.

And that is 500 words.