By JEFF PICKELL
There’s a lot of things to be said about coffee, but due to the Observer’s obscenity rules, most can’t be said in this column.
I used to be a fan of coffee. When I was in college, it gave me the drive to stay up until daylight playing video games and reading comic books and watching episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm on OnDemand, forms of entertainment adults call slacking off. It also helped keep my eyes open when I had to spend 34 straight hours in the library finishing up projects I should’ve been working on when I was slacking off.
And then I graduated from college and realized that there’s no shame in going to sleep at night. That’s the problem with college kids—somewhere along the line it becomes uncool to do things during the daytime, like study, or exercise, or sit on the porch drinking beer. In college, if the sun’s out and you’re doing any one of these things, your peers will invariably label you a bookworm, or a health nut, or a stinking drunkard.
So what do college students do during the day? Sleep, mostly. I heard tell of these things called “classes” students sometimes attend, but those are for people who study majors that require knowledge, like chemistry, science, engineering. I majored in English; all an English major requires is the ability to read English. I’d had that down since the first grade.
The only major I can think of that requires less knowledge than English is political science. But political science majors have it made—they take their know-nothing degrees and get elected president. We English majors take our know-nothing degrees and starve to death, thinking in our dying moments, “At least I can read, which is more than I can say for some presidents and vice-presidents.”
But I was talking about coffee. There’s a certain faction of students in all campus communities who like nothing more than to drink coffee and talk all night, and I was with a certain faction of those students last Saturday.
I’d gone to Kalamazoo to visit my buddy Dolley who’s a fancy dancy hipster English major type, and we began the night meeting some similarly-disposed friends at a cafe.
Now, I’ve never been much of a social coffee drinker; I drink it only when I want to stay up late, usually when I’m by myself. So, mistake number one Saturday night was drinking at the pace usually reserved for the only other social beverage I know—beer. After about two hours and five coffees, I turned to Dolley and whispered, “Is it me, or is my brain trying to tear itself out the back of my skull?”
He whispered something back, to which I replied “I can’t hear you, my heart is beating too loudly.”
I switched over to water at that point, but the other artsy-fartsy types kept right on drinking and talking, the conversation shifting from one absurd topic of world politics to the next. When the coffee joint closed down at about 2 a.m. we decided to retreat to another friend’s house to continue the festivities. They walked, but I just stood still and let my heartbeat bounce me forward. I kept pace remarkably well.
Now, I had fallen behind in one course of study in college and it was about to come back and bite me.
Most English majors also engage in a rigorous, independent Bong Studies program, which, as Bill Clinton can attest, is the reason most of them never get elected president. I’d be a liar to say I’ve never tried pot before, but, truthfully, I found it too hard to read, play video games, and watch TV when stoned, so I gave up on the drug before I even made it to college.
But these folks I was with had no trouble splitting what I would surmise to be a cubic jungle of pot among themselves, which, I guess, is how they all managed to pass out at around 4 a.m.
By then, my heart had settled enough that I could hear Dolley, who also has no love for the pot. He said to me, “Pickell, there is no way you’re getting to sleep tonight.”
And I said, “I concur. But neither are you.”
“No, I’ll be fine,” he said.
“Huh?” I said.
“I’m Irish. I’m immune.”
“You’re full of it.”
“Come on. I’ll prove it to you.”
And within five minutes of stepping through his front door, he was sawing logs on the couch.
Which was bad for me, because the only other place to sleep, aside from the floor, was Dolley’s bed, and I just don’t hate myself that much.
So I was forced to drive back, at 5 a.m. and wide awake, to Morenci, the sleepy little city I call my home, hoping that maybe a little bit of the somnolence would rub off.
I was mistaken. If I don’t get to sleep soon, I may be accused of being a college student. Or worse yet, a political science major.– Jan. 11, 2006