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It's That Time of the Term -- Get Your Caffeine and Run

Column by Bill Jackson

Opinion editor

We're at that point in the term where nobody has the time to slap themselves out of their brain-fuzzed stupor and think for a minute. We've all got that Night of the Living Dead attitude, moving in straight lines from point to point on campus without thinking, just constantly moving onto the next class, the next test, the next problem set, with our eyes slightly dazed, occasionally stopping to eat the brains of passersby -- whoops, sorry, analogy got out of control there.

Time takes on an ultimate importance all of a sudden. I find myself annoyed with anyone who wants to walk down the Infinite Corridor at any speed less than that of a sprinting Jackie-Joyner Kersee. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to move this quickly, and I inevitably have to make the universal sound for "let me by, you idiot" (it sounds like an exasperated sigh) or simply shift into the passing lane, risk the oncoming traffic, and make the daring move in high gear.

Of course, this is exactly the type of behavior that I would laugh at in others about any other time of the year. But dammit, now I'm busy, and the 8.7 seconds I save each time I walk through the Infinite Corridor add up. There's more to it than that, though. Has anyone else noticed that there is some kind of proportional relationship between the slow pace of any group of people and their sheer wideness? You never get a group of skinny people walking really slow in single file; nope, it's always a group of wide human beings walking, minimum, three abreast, leaving you to pull an Indiana Jones squeeze along the side or suffer along behind them.

A similar trick which saves myself and others hundreds of milliseconds each day is the half-step onto Mass. Ave. when waiting for the light to change. By waiting on the edge of the street rather than up on the curb, you can get the big headstart and inevitably win the race across the street to be the first one accosted by the Krishnas or the overly friendly guys with the three-ring binders.

We're willing to do almost anything for a few extra conscious hours per day, including substance abuse. Caffeine is the drug of choice to achieve this end. I used to wince a little when calling caffeine a "drug," because although it is technically correct it has all sorts of nasty connotations. I don't have these hesitations anymore. You see, I recently had two tests on the same day. Familiar scene to all of you, I'm sure: It's 2:30 a.m., and I'm making myself more coffee. Well, I look down at my hand and it's shaking.

I mean, it's the middle of the night and I'm seeing myself with Frank Sinatra in a movie remake called The Man With The Golden Mug. Half of me wants to spoon the stuff right into the Mr. Coffee and the other half of me is thinking "Get out the tea, we'll freebase!" I'm now a strong advocate of legalizing drugs because I've realized that, if the government made coffee illegal tomorrow, I'd gladly sell my sister to the Kurdish military for a kilo of Maxwell House.

By 4 a.m. I'm down to the bottom of the canister, licking up the remaining grounds, pouring scalding hot water into my mouth, swishing it around, and swallowing hard. At 5 a.m. I'm in the Student Center, struggling to keep a straight face as I request the 24-Hour Coffeehouse's "gourmet" coffee, which is kind of like ordering a "chef's salad" at McDonalds. I gulp it down quickly and I can make it to my breakfast coffee fix.

As it is, my coffee purchases this term alone have put two of Juan Valdez's grandchildren through college. I am, however, proud to now call myself a survivor. I've enrolled in the Mrs. Folgers Clinic for Chemical Dependency and I'm on herbal tea and doing fine.

There's yet better proof that people will do anything for a caffeine hit. Caffeinated sodas are a favorite. Jolt seems to do it for a lot of people, but I suspect Jolt is just for show, and it's not a soda you'd commonly find in a store. Besides, Jolt just has an ordinary cola flavor; more impressive to me is Mountain Dew. It kills me that we'll drink carbonated urine if a company cans it and adds caffeine.

Caffeine and the above time-saving techniques have bought me enough time to write this very column. Now you've wasted time reading it. Don't you have a test you should be studying for?