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August 27, 2014

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THE B.S.:

Bruce Spotleson: Happy and alert? You gotta give credit to a certain morning potion

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

It’s another Monday, and I am focused on one thing as I enter the office, en route to an assignation with a 4-foot-10 office acquaintance known to me only by its maker’s name of Saeco.

It’s precisely 68 steps from my door to the company break room where that automated brewing device offers the boost in energy and alertness it takes to rebound off a weekend.

It’s the morning hours, appropriate for a toast to one of the business world’s unsung assets, a staple that deserves much of the credit for what happens in any office, and probably some of the blame as well.

We’re talking coffee, the cocktail whose happy hour is announced by the alarm clock. Or, to be a bit more clinical, the caffeine that is transported through its magic fluid.

How close is the relationship between coffee and business? Well, just try to think of a company or organization that doesn’t pour it freely. You can’t, and, in fact, most offer all you can drink.

Even in our recent hard times, when all kinds of expenses were on the chopping block, you never saw coffee on the list of cutbacks. No right-minded company would have dared consider such a radical action, although that may have had more to do with productivity than empathy. After all, what manager could have risked the reduction in output that would have certainly resulted?

Go ahead. Try to imagine a Monday without coffee at work. You could survive without the computers or the plumbing for a while, anyway, but do without coffee? As if.

Our ancestors couldn’t do it, either. Caffeine has been guzzled by working stiffs for 5,000 years now, although it wasn’t until 1820 that humans knew that it really existed. Of course, the German chemists who identified it lived in simpler times.

These days, caffeine is characterized as a psychoactive stimulant. A very popular one.

In North America, for example, it’s estimated that 90 percent of adults ingest caffeine daily. Global consumption is said to be the equivalent of one serving of a caffeinated beverage for every person every day. Is it any wonder why things move so fast?

Anyone who enjoys coffee, tea or certain soft drinks is familiar with its end result. Applied prudently, caffeine is known to reduce the feeling of tiredness and to increase alertness. One question would be about what a prudent daily dosage really is.

We’re all different, but it is said that most humans are most comfortable in the range of 300 milligrams a day, depending of course on metabolism and health. That would represent two or three cups of the typical office drip coffee, or perhaps six cups of tea. Soft drinks typically have 10 to 50 milligrams. A normal-sized Red Bull has around 80.

As with all good things, ongoing heavy consumption can lead to a dependency. And other, um, unpleasantries.

One is a condition identified as caffeinism, more popularly known by sarcastic co-workers as the caffeine jitters. Perhaps you’ve survived the symptoms. Anxiety. Muscle twitches. Insomnia. Headaches. Heart palpitations. No surprises there, but if you’re a consumer, you should know that—sadly—one of every 10 of us suffer from this condition at any given time.

Thankfully, the effects don’t last forever. Half the effects of a cup of coffee begin to wear off after four or five hours. At which time, you may very well require another boost, especially if it’s Monday.

You won’t have to look far. There is a modest jolt of 34 milligrams in a Coke, or a more sizable load of 160 in a Monster energy drink. Or, if you really want to walk on the wild side, head to the convenience store and fill an 84-ounce cup with Mountain Dew. It’s a full day’s dosage of 294 milligrams in a single convenient container.

It all sounds like a lot, and it is, but the good news is that it will eventually wear off. You see, although it is technically possible to overdose on caffeine, it would take much more coffee than the average person could consume in a day. By the way, I refuse to I describe the impact this would have on your bladder.

As for me, I will stick with Saeco, which helped me prepare for the day’s busy schedule and even fueled the typing frenzy that created this column. It is ready whenever I am. In this office, I’m guessing it always will be.

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