Caffeine: A love story

By Gray Hughes

Hill City Prevailer News Editor Gray Hughes is a big fan of caffeine -- especially caffeine from coffee.

Sometimes we need something to get us through the day.

Some people need to go to a local fast food or fast casual restaurant for lunch and just get out of the office for a minute. Some high power executives may share a scotch in a corner office.

Me, though? I’m like most people. All I need is a cup of coffee.

My experience — and relationship — with caffeine is a long and storied one.

Sure, like a lot of children, I wasn’t really allowed to have soda that often — especially on a school night. But there were times on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays where I was allowed to have an ice cold Coke which, to this day, remains my favorite drink in the world.

But, as I got older, those restrictions fell away, and that is where my relationship with caffeine really began. I was allowed to get a Coke after school some days, and those days got more common.

Then came an experience I will never forget.

I was 12, and my friend — we’ll call him Jimmy — and I bought our first energy drink.

He hated it, but I loved it. I guzzled mine, and then I promptly finished his off.

I couldn’t sleep that whole night since I drank it at like 9 p.m., but I was hooked. My relationship with caffeine truly took off from there.

When I got into high school, I would get a cup of coffee from the teacher’s lounge. I’m not sure if any of the teachers noticed, but if the did they didn’t say anything because it made me — especially in my science and math classes where I was known to often zone out — a much more attentive student.

I started off drinking my coffee “extra-extra” — extra cream, extra sugar. Then I realized that coffee tastes good by itself. To this day, I still take my coffee black.

Fast forward to when I got my drivers license. Unlike here in South Dakota, you can’t get your license until you were 16 and 6 months in Maryland. So when I got my license there was nothing stopping me, a young teenager with a summer job bankrolling his irresponsible behavior, from obtaining all the caffeine I want.

I would get a 22-ounce Red Bull before I got to work, and that behavior didn’t stop when the school year started up again.

I would stop at a gas station pretty much every day to school and I would get three Monster energy drinks — one for the morning on my way to school, one for lunch and one right before bed.

I often got a lot of raised eyebrows when I said I drank one before bed, and, honestly, I understand why. You’re not supposed to drink caffeine before bedtime, and I would drink an energy drink before bed.

It never made me tired. In fact, the impending caffeine crash would knock me out, and I would sleep like a baby.

My energy drink consumption was so bad that, in high school, my senior superlative was “most likely to die of a caffeine overdose.”

One day during my senior year they had an “intervention” for me, and I was told I needed to quit my energy drinking habits cold turkey.

Those caffeine withdraw headaches were so bad I had to miss two days of school. That was short-lived, and I started drinking energy drinks again.

Then I got to college. I had a meal card that allowed me to buy as many coffees and energy drinks as I wanted — so long as I didn’t run out of money on that card. I ran out of dining dollars pretty quickly every semester.

But, in my room, I had a coffee maker, and that coffee maker got a lot of mileage. I have no clue what happened to it, but if it’s still out there, I hope it is serving its new owner as well as it served me.

My go-to drink would be an extra large iced coffee — even if it was the middle of winter (which, to be honest in Maryland, wasn’t that cold). I would purchase one before every class at the café at my college’s library. They all knew me pretty well, and they knew my order so well that the staff would know exactly what I wanted when they saw me walk in there.

Once I was graduated from college and made my way into the “adult world,” my coffee consumption has fluctuated. At my old job in Maryland, we had a Keurig coffee maker in my office, and there was an endless supply of coffee. I think I used to have five or six cups of coffee a day.

Now, though? I’ve gotten a little older. The black coffee can upset my stomach if my stomach is empty. Now I have probably three cups of coffee a day — one in the morning on my way to work, one around noon after lunch and then one around 3 p.m. when the midday crash starts to set in.

Life is cyclical. Like when I was younger, I don’t really drink soda that often any more, and I cannot tell you the last time I had an energy drink.

Now I get all my caffeine through coffee or tea.

Like many, I need my caffeine. I need it to wake me up, I need it with my lunch and I need it to get me through my day.