Written by Tad Klein Photos by Mohamed Hasan and Tad Klein
Caffeine makes the world go round, from Wall Street to main street, American culture runs on that potent elixir that we miserable mortals call caffeine. There I was, craving a Monster Energy, when I was hit with a 7500 Staff 24 Hour Challenge: No Caffeine, Abstain from the rocket fuel, no coffee, no energy drinks, no caffeine, for a whole day. I'm not saying I'm addicted, that's anonymous, but the thought of going out into the world with out a cup of smile was daunting to say the least.
9:30 am: I awake, not roughly or abruptly, but too soon. From the comfort of my bed, I wasn’t thinking about the challenge ahead of me.
9:31 am: The harrowing prospect of a caffeine free day has fully set in. I have consumed some form of caffeine every morning for roughly ten years. Coffee in the morning, followed by mid-morning refill, followed by a lunchtime pick me up. On days when I have a long day planned, I can go through Monster Energy drinks from sunrise to sun set, and then one more for good measure.
10:30 am: Without the rich aroma of our French press wafting through the house, I have not found any good reason to start my day.
11:00 am: My morning coffee and a cigarette turn into a lone cigarette, smoked from the safety of a sweatpant and sweatshirt fort. The wind cuts through me and I only think in curses.
11:10 am: There are two unopened Bang Energy drinks in the fridge; they taunt me. (how dare they)
11:11 am: If I am writing I can’t be raiding the fridge.
11:28 am: Now what?
12:09 pm: I’m dangerously close to wasting this day. The house smells like coffee now, I must escape.
12:27 pm: I drive towards the arts district. Traffic. Chain-smoking.
1:30 pm: Lost in the arts district, I couldn’t find the story I wanted to find. I enjoyed the pretty colors, trying to ignore the grossness behind the clean facades and empty sidewalks. The artists are artists, even if they are capitalists. Down the wrong street twice and then I saw it, a landmark monstrosity, an iron cist, so I go. Love spelled backwards is “evol”. Ending homelessness that I can see.
2:30 pm: Heavy traffic. Too many people racing through their lives. I’m too tired and drained. This world is exhausting. We call ourselves sentient but we eat our own tail. No one cares, as long as we pay our taxes and the power stays on. The concept of human existence is a cycle of destruction and deception based on fear and righteousness. The caged bird sings while the poultry fight over crumbs. Our masters are in our pockets and we watch imaginary numbers rise and fall with the ebb and flow of the moon. Mother moon connects us in our struggle for enough, and Father sun pushes us to fight and steal from each other for sport or perverse fascination. Too many people with imaginary blood on their hands and exclamations against the unfair system. My blood hasn’t dried but as it drips into my eyes I see truths that cut deeper than knifes. I am the machine, you are too. We all try to alleviate our guilt, as long as it doesn’t cut into our lives. God give me a coffee.
3:30 pm: Home again, coffee perfume and the looming night ahead. I won’t submit. Now for the hard part.
4:30 pm: Clean body, dirty shoes, poorly hidden stains on tattered dress shirt and the temperament of a crocodile with a cavity. “No, the bar is not open yet.” “Yes, I will get that for you.” Only six hours to go.
5:30 pm: Breathing deeply in the liquor room I work in. What can I do to make this night livable? I push on. I will make it.
6:45 pm: This is not busy, but this is work. Handling egos more fragile than a cheap wine glass. Never gentle enough. Click in and get through.
11:00 pm: Done.
11:30 pm: To the bar in the heart of Hollywood, pick up the check and go home.
11:33 pm: Ordering a flatbread, is this my first meal?
12:00 am: Full belly, early shift tomorrow, leave the hustling city early. Cigarettes disappear into ash on a metronomic regularity.
1:00 am: I did not leave.
1:30 am: Home. Sleep.
9:00 am: I awake, not roughly or abruptly, but too soon. (and it continues).
So maybe a day without my morning, (mid-morning, early lunch, after lunch, and after class; or before work, at work and after work) pick me up wasn't the worst thing I've ever had to endure. Maybe I always knew that I would be a miserable grouch without caffeine, and I certainly was. It was not, however, that bad. The morning hurt, and the evening faded away in front of my drowsy eyes, but I got through it. Please don't try this at home, you won't enjoy it. Really.