Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shock the monkey (if by monkey you mean me)

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My wife and I were at the Starbucks in Seekonk one recent weekend, and a very nice man there recognized me as the writer of this column. If I’d had my coffee before he talked to me, I would’ve been awake enough to ask him his name — but I wasn’t. Sorry. Anyway, the nice guy told me he’s at that Starbucks pretty much every day.

My kind of guy!

We people in the newspaper game need lots of coffee in order to function properly. What do you think — the news just happens? We have to sit in front of a desk for eight hours a day and decide whether to suppress knowledge (next month’s hostile alien invasion, for example), spin it to serve Our Secret Liberal Agenda, or ignore it and write something about Paris Hilton instead. Try doing that on just tap water.

My newspaper job wakes me up at the absolutely repulsive hour of 1 a.m. I’m cranky, tired, and in no mood to leggo anybody’s Eggos. All I want that early in the morning is coffee and lots of it.

I usually end up bringing a Thermos of coffee to work, and sometimes I get more afterward. But the caffeine buzz been weak lately. The more early mornings I work, the more caffeine it takes to keep me awake. But the more caffeine I drink, the more I get used to it, which means I can’t stay awake at 3 a.m. — which means I need more caffeine. There’s a word for this effect. It rhymes with “spladdiction.”

To fill my need for greater and greater amounts of caffeine, I bought a product a few weeks ago I thought would help: Shower Shock.

Yes, Shower Shock is a bar of caffeine-infused soap sold by ThinkGeek.com. You use the soap like any other and absorb the caffeine through your pores. For someone like me who gets up early, is spladdicted to coffee and who sometimes smells funny, it sounds perfect.

Just read the description: “Shower Shock is an all vegetable-based glycerine soap which does not contain any harsh ingredients like ethanol, diethanolamine, polyethylene glycol or cocyl isethionate.” So, for people who enjoy a smidgen of cocyl isethionate, very sorry.

“Each bar of Shower Shock contains approximately 12 servings/showers per 4 ounce bar with 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving.” By comparison, the National Coffee Association says an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain an average of 85 mg of caffeine.

That sounded promising, so I bought one bar online. ThinkGeek.com charges $6.99 per bar of soap. That price alone made me feel pretty pop-eyed — until I saw the shipping charges: $6.19. Grand total for one bar of soap: $13.17. Yikes!

ThinkGeek.com says the soap is “scented with peppermint oil.” Hell, yes. When it finally came in the mail, I could literally smell the soap through the cardboard shipping box. To picture the scent, imagine a Wrigley spearmint gum factory exploded and set fire to the Altoids factory next door.

I decided I’d test it by using it for a week without drinking any coffee at all to make sure the only caffeine I got was from the soap.

At 1 a.m. the next morning, so tired I could only open one eye, I groped for my Shower Shock bar and washed up. The second thing you notice about Shower Shock, after the sickening ribbon-candy scent, is that it looks white — almost clear. For some reason, I’d been expecting soap that substitutes for coffee to be brown.

I showered like I usually do and felt nothing. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t used enough to get the full 200 mg, and lathered up all over again. As I dried off, I did notice that I hadn’t yawned yet since I used it, and my skin felt tingly. Seemed promising.

The rest of the morning was … let’s just say, “eventful.” I kept a diary of it. I should just reproduce that here:

2:23 a.m.: It’s been 30 minutes since I used Shower Shock. No major effects yet except a slightly faster heartbeat, but am hopeful.

2:38 a.m.: Had first yawn. I usually yawn more than this. Apart from that, I’m still tired.

5:23 a.m.: Had second yawn at work. The Shower Shock is definitely working, as it’s been a while since the first yawn. Also not sure if I’ve blinked since then. Found out there’s free hot cocoa at the coffee machine. Must resist.

5:39 a.m.: Co-workers keep asking what smells like candy canes. I say nothing.

6:02 a.m.: Four and a half hours after using Shower Shock. Feel tired, but not sluggish. Definitely caffeinated. Realized again that I paid $13 for this and nearly started to cry.

6:49 a.m.: Jittery. Heart rate elevated. I think. Probably. It feels elevated. Jittery. Eyeballs vibrating. Wow! Hoo! Whoa!

7:36 a.m.: Coughed and saw floaty things. They went: Weeee!

7:50 a.m.: More tired. But not! Caffeine! Works! Soap! Very thirsty! Goodbye!

8:25 a.m.: Seven hours later. Head pounding. Eyes can’t focus. Hands twitching. Leaned back in chair and fell asleep. Woke up when I realized I could still read with my eyes shut. Somehow have transcended space and time. I have never felt so alive!

8:26 a.m.: Uh-oh. I feel the caffeine crash coming…

8:27 a.m.: Just crashed. Will curl up on desk and use PC keyboard as pillow until the headache goes away.

9:29 a.m.: After-effects are not good. Extreme tiredness, also spiders crawling up my back and arms. When I ask people to flick them off, they reply no thanks. Rubbing my back against the computer just attracts more spiders. I’m taking a nap in the stairwell until they go away.

10:43 a.m.: Feel much better now. Caffeine starting to wear off. Ate some cherries. Swallowed a pit. Now my stomach feels weird. I’ll be back in a sec.

From there, the diary goes into rather unsavory details. But I pretty much learned my lesson after the seven-hour hippie freak-out. From now on, if I want coffee in the morning, I’m having it the way nature intended: light cream and sugar, in a 20-gallon drum, piped through a hose and out my shower nozzle.

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