I overdosed just the other day. I’d administered a big whack not ten minutes before, cooked up in the usual way: filtered, mixed, then ingested through glass. Five minutes later I was out the door, on my bicycle, feeling the surging rush and the way it made the sunshine sharper, made everything click into keen focus. But only five minutes later the dose had started to turn, and by the time I reached my destination – a few minutes after this grim realisation – I was so shaky I could barely pass the u-lock through the spokes of my front wheel. The feeling was a familiar horror: socks soaked with a cold sweat that also covered my brow; jaws clenching repeatedly over the big wad of chewing gum in my mouth; hands and eyelids all a-twitter; a big, balling headache behind the brow; and last of all, a temper at twig-snap tension. Should anyone so much as snicker at me the wrong way, they would know the deep, sudden, scarlet flail of my wrath.
I gave myself five minutes on the lawn to calm down, letting ebbing washes of tense rage run their course, waiting until the uncontrolled urge to stab sockets and bite sinews subsided, to be replaced with a much more controllable queasiness and a dull thumping headache. I sat there, silently bemoaning the clam of my socks, and I thought: gosh, coffee is such a horrible drug sometimes. For a good few minutes there, I was so engorged with shaky anger that I could easily have lost it with anyone who so much as sneezed a marmoset-size sneeze in my direction. I really, really ought to cut down.
Two generations ago, Australians were mostly tea drinkers by day, beer swillers by night. Then, in the 70s, boomers began to swap swill for an AM plunger and some PM vino. Nowadays? Nowadays people are drinking caffeinated drinks day and night: a heart-starting coffee or three for breakfast, another at eleven, a coke with lunch, another coffee at three-thirty… then energy drinks with booze until vomit or complete neural collapse covers your evening in stench and darkness. But maybe not before you’ve punched, glassed, kicked or otherwise pulverised someone around you. Or at the very least raised the ambient aggro levels to just below boiling point.
It’s easy to see why crystal meth and binge drinking get the spotlight – the effects on sufferers are pronounced and profound. But at the same time, with all the talk of epidemics tearing at the social fabric, very little thought is given to the one drug that almost everyone is on, almost all the time. And it’s not only that everyone is on it, it’s also that they’re on it in ever bigger doses, in combination with massive whacks of sugar and alcohol. Hence the aggro. Not out-and-out anger, but just moments and people – on trains, in traffic, at the bar – right on the edge, and a city whose whole demeanour is a big fuzzball of undirected rage. If you can see the china quivering on the mantelpiece, it’s because there’s a very, very nervy elephant in the room. And its name is caffeine.
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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