So here’s the thing –
[This, by the way, is how I’ve decided I’m going to start every monologue from now on. I think it’s a subtle and elegant way to let people know that I’m gonna be dropping one of my patented pearls of wisdom.]
– I’m, like, fully addicted to coffee.
This is a side effect of working in a cafe. In a similar vein, all of my bartender friends are high-functioning alcoholics and I don’t know an English teacher who isn’t chemically dependent on New English File – Intermediate – 4th Edition. It’s just a fact of life that you end up abusing whatever substance you spend eight hours a day peddling.
Of the three named addictions, caffeine is definitely the least dangerous. Whereas you can’t drive under the influence of alcohol or phrasal verbs, it’s perfectly safe to chug a double espresso and operate heavy machinery, for most people, at least: I’m so deeply clumsy that putting me in the same general area as a car seems like an unnecessary risk.
Coffee is readily available, uncontrolled, cheap, and relatively harmless. The worst side effect I’ve ever had from drinking too much coffee was a slightly elevated heart rate – overdosing on English teaching makes one prone to overusing unnecessarily complex grammatical structures; and I’ve already mentioned the hangovers that plague me after a night of alcohol abuse. That’s why I’m not too worried about the addiction – it’s not going to bankrupt me, it probably won’t kill me. The worst that’ll happen is I’ll spend my life slightly more aware of the shit that’s going on around me. Yeah, that’s not ideal – I’ve always striven to float through life letting the smaller stuff pass me by – but it’s not so bad, all things considered.
But addiction is addiction and, as I tritely put it to a friend, it’s not nice to be dependent on a substance. I’ve decided to cut back my coffee consumption, but this is a tricky resolution to keep for two reasons:
I work in a café
Classically, the café is the home of coffee. I spend eight hours a day, three or four times a week, wrist deep in coffee beans. Even if I were to somehow, through sheer grit, abstain from drinking whatever spare coffee happens to be made, I think the caffeine would still work its way into my bloodstream through my skin.
I’m not sure about the science of that, but it seems right.
Plus, for someone as consistently exhausted as me, eight hours is a long time to spend in an upright position. When I’m not behind the coffee machine, I’m fluctuating between freelance work and unemployment (just like, it seems, most freelancers); so those shifts are by far the longest periods I spend upright. Even when I’m at my most industrious at home, I’m still able to maintain a nice pool of blood in my brain by tippity tapping in a reclining position. No such luxury at work. I tried frothing milk from a sitting position once, but it was, frankly, dangerous.
Coffee is an ideal remedy to an unavoidable problem – the problem of being by nature incapable of functioning for more than four hours in a row without a little break.
Coffee is really nice
I like it a lot!
It plays a sort of similar role in my life as tea would if I were a more traditional/stereotypical British woman: it’s the foundation of most social interactions. If I meet up with a friend, we go for coffee; if someone drops by my flat, I offer them coffee, and I’m mildly put out if they don’t want any. There’s a ritual in it, and there’s something lovely about sharing a beverage. If I imagine my alterego, existing in a parallel universe, the Rosalind that never left the UK, her life looks a lot like mine, except she goes out for tea with her pals and for some reason she has a Yorkshire accent.
After about 6pm though, I suppose, we swap out the coffee for alcohol, and the rest continues in much the same way.
I don’t want to bring everything back to the whole depression debacle, but in our second or third session my therapist and I made a list of things I’ve enjoyed. Not things that I did enjoy or was enjoying – at that time, I wasn’t deriving any pleasure from anything – but just stuff that historically I had enjoyed. It was a very difficult task to complete, because, as I’ve talked about at length, I find it really hard to relate to my joyous self when I’m depressed and vice versa.
Eventually, we compiled the following rather bleak list under the even bleaker heading ‘things to live for’:
- Going to art galleries
- Seeing flowers
- Drinking beer
- Listening to music
- Going through Žižkov tunnel
- Going on tram no. 6 through the forest
- Drinking coffee
Even though it feels like work, said my therapist, you have to do these things. Eventually you will relearn how to enjoy them. I initially wanted to write being with people I care about, but we agreed that that was too much for the time being.
Anyway, you can imagine how highly I value coffee, not just as a substance, but as a sort of event to look forward to.
This is reason enough not to give up coffee cold turkey, given that it’s a genuine cornerstone of my happiness. Even so, I’ve decided to cut back.
I’ve set myself the challenge of only drinking coffee at work. This has another benefit: the coffee at work is much, much nicer than the shit I bought at Albert for, like, 150 czk.* My recently developed taste in coffee is in constant conflict with my deepset refusal to spend any money on anything ever.
*= a pittance.
I think this is an achievable, reasonable goal, and, hey, guess what? I’ve already broken it. I woke up at like midday today, late for an appointment, head groggy, mouth claggy, soul aching. I was rushing out of the door with my cheeks full of piping hot Joe* before I had a chance to think through my actions and remember my brave resolution. Clean living would have to wait.
*minds out of the gutter
But tomorrow is another day, and I have cunningly hidden my coffee on top of the fridge and committed myself to an early night in preparation.
I must not fail!