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Caffeine culture

Sara Felsenstein | Monday, September 27, 2010

If you’re anything like my friends and me, Starbucks downs your flex points just about as fast as you down its tall vanilla lattes.

I don’t even drink coffee just to stay awake. There are so many other great reasons to grab a cup: to fill an awkward break between classes, to catch up with friends, to procrastinate studying and to keep warm when the temperature goes subzero.

We live in a caffeine culture, and the ridiculously long coffee lines between classes prove that. You can even tell a lot about a person based on their caffeine preference.

We have the Waddicks types, who linger at the coveted red booths, reading Chaucer or discussing philosophy, slowly sipping large pumpkin spice coffees.

You know someone’s got a long day when their tumbler is filled to the brim with Grab and Go coffee and secured in the net pocket of a protruding backpack.

And then there are those who are perpetually holding Starbucks — never straight coffee but always with an excess of adjectives like nonfat, extra whip, unsweetened, light ice and no foam.

I may be stereotyping, but at Notre Dame getting coffee is a more social thing for girls than for guys. You are much more likely to see four PW girls in LaFun gossiping over coffee, than to see four Siegfried guys crowded around a Burger King table, chatting and sipping their nonfat lattes.

On the other hand, unlike guys, girls don’t typically purchase energy drinks to have fun with their friends. Let’s take the case of Five-Hour Energy shots. Girls never brag about taking them. In fact, most girls will down them in the privacy of a Subway booth or in their own rooms. But when guys pop open that small bottle, they have to broadcast it to whoever they pass by. It’s always like, “Dude, I’m so ridiculously awake now, I just took a Five-Hour Energy. Love that stuff.”

Addiction? Possibly. Problem? Not really.

But the Five-Hour Energy shot poured into the coffee? Yes, I’ve seen it done. Now that’s a problem.

At Notre Dame, we like to think that while we “play hard” on the weekends, during the weekdays we are studious, diligent and in control. However, our coffee drinking habits are oddly reminiscent of our weekend drinking habits. Why else would we order a double shot of espresso on a Monday morning, or claim that “one more cup” of coffee won’t hurt us? Why else would we suffer through headaches at 11 a.m., just because we didn’t have that morning cup?

Whether you’re a social coffee drinker, a caffeine addict, or, gasp, you “don’t like coffee,” there’s no denying that we live in a caffeine culture.

Of course, there are those out there who claim to survive without any caffeine at all. On good, old-fashioned sleep, they say. I still think there has got to be some method to that madness, but for now, more power to them.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Sara Felsenstein at sfelsens@nd.edu