filtering an epidemic

(An homage to this story, which was written by an otherwise excellent journalist and which I’m therefore going to blame on his editor.)

Sure, it’s fun to joke around. But sometimes, here at The Kugelmass Episodes, we feel a little twinge of something called “a responsibility to tell the truth.”

That’s why we all need to help get out the message: there is a real and growing problem on college campuses.

Students are consuming coffee, not because they have a medical need for it, but simply as a study aid or because they want to feel “buzzed.”

“Oh yeah, I’ll drink some coffee, and then I’ll stay up most of the night,” says Thornton B., a student at Bennington College. “Sometimes I’ll have another cup of coffee in the morning before I take the test. I’ll drink the coffee in little sips. If I gulp it, my tongue burns, and I can’t taste a thing for about three days.”

Students who have a whole bag of coffee will often distribute freshly brewed coffee to their friends. “I’ll make like five cups, and I’ll have two, and Jeanne will have one if she didn’t sleep well, and then Herbie will drink whatever’s left,” says NYU student Ally Rawls, who tends to kind of drone on and on about trivial crap like this.

There is also a market for buying and selling coffee, with prices going as high as $6 for a “venti” Frappucino during finals week.

(Never mind that “venti” is considered a dangerously high dose of Frappe, if the buyer hasn’t developed a tolerance for sugar and whipped cream.)

“That’s the way it was in college,” says former college student Bob. “You drank coffee all the time. Your face smelled like coffee. You were constantly peeing. Noises in the early morning sounded overly loud, and you’d re-read emails like ten times, even ones you wrote.”

Robert (as he prefers to be called) has now stopped drinking coffee, and is really getting into white tea, which helps him stay “in the zone” so he can be a “game changer.” He also has started listening to All Things Considered, and yesterday he added the word “spiritual” to his OK Cupid profile.

He speaks slowly and sonorously, evincing none of the jittery, Bukowski-laced babbling I’d come to expect of unredeemed “java hounds.” “Now that I’m off the bean,” he adds, “I’ve realized that a lot of the stuff I used to read is just awful. I literally have no idea what Jean Baudrillard means by, well, by any sentence he’s ever written.” Robert’s friend Harmony, sitting cross-legged nearby, says she “completely lost interest” in the sitcom “Scrubs” after switching from coffee to guarana.

I can see Thornton approaching, waving a large thermos at me. I ask him if he knows that coffee causes delirium.

“Whoa,” is his only answer. Then his pal Victor (who is super-hyped as usual) yells, “Next stop: delirium!”

“You can’t pass French without a French press,” Thornton tells me. He once again resumes frenetically perusing irregular past verbs, hardly even noticing how much I am quietly judging him — not only for drinking coffee, but for slurping it. I mean, this isn’t a coffee tasting. He’s not, I don’t know, filming himself evaluating acidity for YouTube or whatever. This guy. I swear to God.