Over to YOU

LIFE WITHOUT COFFEE

GORDON GIBB January 19 2004
Over to YOU

LIFE WITHOUT COFFEE

GORDON GIBB January 19 2004

AH, SUCH A beautiful morning. The sun is up, the air is fresh and it’s a lovely day. Do I sound chipper to you? Refreshed? Restored? Amazingly so, since I am here to tell you that, yes Virginia, there is life after coffee. I haven’t had a cup today. I didn't have a cup yesterday, last week, or last month.  My fellow Canadians, I am proud to state in front of God and Juan Valdez that I have gone five years now without a single cup of joe, and that includes latte in any form. Five years. At the drive-through I drive on, without stopping once to roll up the rim.

How I found the willpower is beyond me, considering my consumption history: the habit began at the tender age of 10 and ruled my existence until I turned 40, when I was drinking 15 cups a day. I was also a workaholic, although I'm not sure whether coffee caused or complemented the condition, I required very little sleep. Lucky for me, since I couldn't sleep at all, not with all that high-octane stimulant coursing through my veins.

I could not start the day without coffee. The blood would not flow, the nerves would not feel. The day would not register. Coffee was life. Those who did not drink, did not live.

But now the coffee machine is decommissioned, the monkey is off my back. So how did I do it, you ask. The path? No there are none for caffeine. What about those motivational gurus you see on TV? Surely if Tony Robbins could help reinvent my life, increase my income and inspire me to make the world a better place, there must be a CD in the collection dedicated to the eradication of that demon caffeine. Alas, there is not.

In truth, it all came down to price. My wife, who looks after the shopping in our household is frugal to the core, there was a freeze in Brazil. The price of coffee shot up.

"That's it," Sherrie announced one day. "You're switching to tea."

"But I'll die," I said.

"Die if you must," was her terse reply. "But I am not paying that for coffee."

You must understand that my wife is sweet and gentle, resilient and incredibly flexible in every area of existence but one. And while her heart is as big as a house, her soul has a bar code and you can only push her so far.

The purge commenced after work on a Friday, and that first weekend left me racked with caffeine-withdrawal headaches. The following week, I felt sluggish and barely got through the day, all the while gulping as much tea as my stomach would hold. I kept wanting an afternoon nap, which would not be a good idea given that I work in broadcasting. Wouldn't be a very exciting program with me stretched out on a couch somewhere.

"Couldn't I have just one little cup of coffee? Pleeeeeaaase?"

"Sorry," Sherrie said. "We have to save it for our guests." (God, she's tough.)

After a few more weeks I began to feel like myself again, only better. The caffeine-withdrawal shakes were gone. I was sleeping, and since I don't take sugar in tea, I dropped a few pounds. I was averaging five good-sized cups of tea a day, representing a fraction of the caffeine I used to absorb. Could it be I had finally done the impossible?

The big test came about a month into the experiment, when I was assigned the early shift at the studio. Up at 3 a.m., to work by 5 and on-air not much later. If I can do that on tea, I told myself, then I've got it licked. It worked. I am now a bona fide, milk-into-the cup-first tea drinker. There's no going back. A single cup of coffee makes me ill.

But now I face a new problem. I am a member of a minority in this coffee-mad country where Tim Hortons is a shrine. Just try going into a doughnut shop-worse, if you're with a bunch of hockey dads stocking up on double-doubles for the game-and ordering tea. Yes, they'll serve you some. But, oh, the stares.

Dinner parties aren't too bad, as the hostess will always have both on the go. But pop in for an unexpected visit and it's always, "Can I offer ya a coffee? Just made a fresh pot." "Oh, that's quite alright, I drink tea." "Oh!" Uncomfortable pause. "Uh, OK, I suppose I could put the kettle on then."

At work , there is always a fresh pot of coffee for staff. But a pot of tea? Are you kidding? I have to bring my own in a Thermos. "I see ya got yer coffee there with ya," says the guy standing beside me, waiting at the light. I want to tell him it's full of bourbon, but then he'll probably ask what bourbon tastes like mixed with coffee.

It's gotten to the point where I have to apologize. No, I don't drink coffee, OK? Shoot me now, please. Put me on the report.

I've come to the conclusion that the issue will only be resolved with a move to England. Otherwise, it's just put up or shut up.

Oh well, I will quietly sip my tea and try not to think about it. But I am getting tired, you see. Weary of bucking the trend, swimming against the tide. So weary, in fact, that I just might have to march right over to the coffee shop for some heavy-duty fortification.

I'll tell 'em to leave the bag in. *