Shotgunning a Red Bull for the first time.

4:30 p.m., Sunday, May 3. My eyelids are oozing shut as I write this. I have bags under the bags under my eyes. Last night, I got about five and a half hours of sleep on a good friend’s futon after staying up talking past 1 a.m. or so., and I’ve spent most of this afternoon driving back home and then futilely attempting to fix our dishwasher, which has started making an awful grinding noise when it runs.

I haven’t had eight uninterrupted hours of sleep in weeks, if not months — I’ve been living through ludicrous levels of job related stress, and I also live with two wonderful, energetic and very strong-willed boys under the age of 4. Both kids have been whacking each other with foam implements and spilling water all over the kitchen floor for a good part of the past few hours.

I would like nothing more than to curl up in bed and sleep until, oh, Wednesday or so.

But instead, I’m going to chug this 12-oz can of Red Bull that’s in front of me, as part of an experiment with America’s favorite legal recreational drug.

I don’t drink coffee. I almost always avoid caffeinated sodas, and I certainly have never taken caffeine pills. It’s a personal Prohibition that’s even more remarkable considering my innumerable college all-nighters when I was writing papers or producing the student newspaper; the year and a half I spent working a night shift; and the Crunchable updates that have routinely kept me up until 3 or 4 in the morning. I’ve always just avoided caffeine.

So we’ll see how this goes. My wife Stacey looked askance at my giant can a few minutes ago and said, “Maybe you should eat something with that.” Probably a good advice, but I’m going to risk it.

After downing the Red Bull, I’ll come back to the computer every half hour and write for about 10 minutes. We’ll see what happens. For reference, my pulse now is about 74 beats per minute.

4:45 p.m. (glug glug glug)

Ugh, Stacey’s right. This stuff tastes pretty awful.

(glug glug glug)

Hm. Eyelids seem to be perking up. Might just be psychosomatic, though.

Gah. This tastes worse and worse the more I drink it. Also, stomach’s starting to churn. Mayhaps Stacey had a good idea about taking this with food.

(glug glug glug)

Eesh. I’m gonna go find some water to wash this taste out of my mouth.

Okay, so, I’ve got a lot to get through during this afternoon. Maybe I’ll mop the kitchen floor. Oh, wait, I’m forgetting about the dishwasher. I should go find the instruction manual. Probably somewhere in the basement. I’m gonna go rummage around downstairs.

5:15 p.m., 72 beats per minute. Meh. Still have Red Bull aftertaste. It’s like carbonated cough syrup.

I found the dishwasher’s instruction manual, but it’s not much help. I’ve started taking the dishwasher apart, and I think I know roughly which part of the machine is making the grinding noise. Sounds like something caught in the motor; probably something beyond my abilities as a repairman.

No matter. I can at least clean it out while I have it apart. I’ve also vacuumed out the space underneath the dishwasher and polished the front of it. Have started doing the same for the refrigerator, as long as I’m down here.

5:45 p.m., 70 beats per minute. Hm. I’d have expected my heart to be beating faster by now.

Dishwasher’s back together. Changed into old clothes for housecleaning. Kitchen is cleared out, and mop and cleaner are ready. Stomach still feels kind of funny. I’m strangely in the mood to do push-ups. But otherwise, I’m not noticing much of an effect from the caffeine.

I should probably back up and explain my aversion to the stuff. In the past, I’ve never found it to be all that effective. I never noticed it making me feel sharper or more awake. The main thing I noticed was that, when I finally needed to go to bed, it wouldn’t let me get to sleep.

Though my urge to nap did go away pretty quickly when I chugged the Red Bull an hour ago. Hm.

6:15 p.m., 88 beats per minute (immediately after climbing a flight of stairs). Mopped the kitchen. Went ahead and mopped two bathrooms while I was at it.

Also, jitters have set in. Feel sort of like throwing up. Now that I notice it, I’m rocking nervously in my chair as I write this.

Brain is racing. Nothing coherent’s coming out, though — so much for sharpening my mind. Ten minutes seems like far too long to sit in one place and write. But my earlier exhaustion is catching up with me, too. I’d love to go lie down somewhere, if I actually believed I could sleep.

6:30 p.m., 84 beats per minute. Not due to write more for another 15 minutes, but can’t wait. Feel miserable. More jittery than before.

Just dragged ladder up from the basement and onto the front porch in a failed attempt to fix the remote sensor to our digital thermometer. Standing at the top of a ladder while seized with caffeine jitters is perhaps not the smartest idea I’ve had today.

Also on the list of ideas that now seem kind of dumb: Chugging a 12-ounce Red Bull.

My comprehension and decision-making abilities seem pretty severely compromised. Stacey read the same dishwasher troubleshooting guide that I did and said she found an explanation for the noise. Whatever.

Must go now and pick up our order of Chinese food. I have no number what our order idea … uhm, I mean, I have no idea what our order number is, even though Stacey just told me. Must go write down the number is.


6:36 p.m. Pacing. Meant to write that I’m pacing a lot. Can’t remember where I put anything or what I’m doing. Meant to write that as part of the update from six minutes ago.

Right. Chinese food.

6:48 p.m. I no longer care what my pulse is. Still feel like throwing up.

Now at Chinese restaurant. Managed to get here without killing anyone. Only notable lapse in judgment was bringing my laptop along with me. Was tempted to get it out and start typing while paused at a red light for 30 seconds. Fought offf the urge.

Also not caring much about typos at this point.

6:58 p.m. Have returned home. No crashes en route this time either, but — sheez — remind me not to drive again while hopped up on caffeine.

Come to think of it, just remind me not to get hopped up on caffeine.

Hoping the food will help.

7:07 p.m. “Food will help you feel better,” my 3½-year-old son Tom sagely advises as we sit down to dinner. “And rest, too,” he adds.

7:36 p.m. Starting to feel marginally better. Went into the kitchen to get a paper towel to wipe down 2-year-old Seth after dinner. Stacey asked me an unrelated question. I answered. Then I paced around the kitchen a few times, perplexed.

“Why did I come in here again?” I asked.

Stacey only laughed in response.

7:59 p.m. Belatedly, I recall that caffeine is a diuretic. Wondering if dehydration is part of the reason I’ve felt so awful. Trying to drink extra water.

9:56 p.m., 70 beats per minute. Well, I seem to be back to my old, decaffeinated self. Most of the nausea and jitters have passed. I’m droopy and exhausted again.

I’d say the chief thing I’ve learned from this experience is that I ought to continue my long-standing abstention from caffeine. Also, I’m glad I’ve never bothered to try any recreational drugs, because — judging by this experience — they clearly would have only made me miserable. (I don’t drink alcohol either, for similar reasons.)

Just a moment ago, Stacey glanced over at our still-malfunctioning digital thermometer and observed that my attempts to fix it had been fruitless. I concurred and noted that I probably could have figured out the problem if I had located the thermometer’s instruction booklet and read it carefully, but it wasn’t worth bothering because my binge had destroyed my reading comprehension ability.

“You were pretty funny, though,” Stacey said.

I asked her to be more specific.

“You were losing stuff, and you couldn’t accomplish anything,” she responded. “You were going to mop, but then you couldn’t find the mop you had just gotten out. And then you were out on the front porch with the ladder, and then you were back to mopping.”

I had kind of hoped my Red Bull experiment would banish my tiredness and transform me into a house-cleaning whirlwind. Instead, it left me jittery, nauseated, hyperactive, unable to focus, and generally wretched.

But at least the kitchen floor got cleaned.

Article © 2009 by Michael Duck