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This week, I learned that former Red Sox hero turned Yankee villain Roger Clemens, newly eligible for inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame, might have trouble getting voted in because of allegations of anabolic steroid use. (Unproven allegations, and understandably so; leaving Boston and ending up in New York should lead to massive use of antidepressants, not steroids.) This comes only a couple of months after a damning report convinced many people that cyclist Lance Armstrong should be stripped of his seven Tour de France victories because he used performance-enhancing drugs (also known as PEDs — short for “mopeds”, because they allow a cyclist to race as if they had a little motor inside, which of course would be cheating). I fully support the public condemnation of drug use by athletes, but I worry about the implications. What if, in a burst of puritanical enthusiasm, authorities decide to outlaw the use of all PEDs in all situations? I don’t think I can work in a world without caffeine.

If, as Ben Franklin said, beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then caffeinated beverages are proof that, even though he loves us, God still expects us to earn our keep.  After all, according to legend, who discovered coffee?  A Ethiopian goatherd trying to stay awake at work!  Who discovered tea?  Buddhist monks trying to stay awake at work!  It is as if caffeine were specifically created just to make humans more productive.  It is a substance our body craves, yet we cannot produce it ourselves — so it’s not a drug; it’s a work vitamin!

Consider this: caffeine is beneficial to humans, but poisonous to dogs.

Pinncle of human achievement

Pinnacle of human achievement


Pinnacle of canine achievement

Fortunately for us, those creatures which are born industrious and talented don’t get any additional benefit from caffeine — in fact, it has a negative effect . . .


Credit: NASA

Otherwise by this point all of humanity would be living as slaves to our arachnid overlords.

Ninety percent of American adults consume caffeine every day.  (This is the real reason so many voters could not relate to Mitt Romney.  It wasn’t his wealth; it was because he was successful at work without drinking coffee.  People suspected him of being a spider in disguise.)  If there were a sudden shortage, the nation would suffer a massive case of caffeine scurvy.  Eyes would glaze over.  Heads would nod, then drop onto desks.  Yawns would spread like epidemical wildfire, and all conversations and transactions would slow to one-tenth speed.  Nobody in any bureaucracies would notice a difference, but in businesses, laboratories, schools, and markets across the country, productivity would plummet.

Some might say there is something pathetic about this national — indeed, global — attachment to C8H10N4O2, but I say to them, nobody bats an eyelash over the universal consumption of H20 or NaCl.  (See, it was the use of hoity-toity exclusive drugs that led to the censure of Clemens and Armstrong [Lance, not Neil — pinnacle of human achievement, after all, and he drank coffee, not ‘roids].)  Like laughter, speech, and intra-species genocide, caffeine is part of what makes us human.  And accomplished — it’s a molecular opposable thumb.  Thank you, caffeine, for helping me out of bed and for getting me through so many dismal, dragging days!  You really are the labor nutriment!  The elixir of achievement!  The potion of productivity!  The true work vitamin!

Though it is possible I might have had a bit too much this morning.