It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m working on an article at my favorite place to concentrate… Starbucks. The piece I am working on today is lengthy. The coffee house is irregularly quiet, almost dead. There are a couple of regulars reading their newspapers and the transients coming and going. It’s 9:05 when a fellow I’ve never seen before heads back up to the barrister for another coffee. I didn’t see what his first was, but this next one is a Venti, for those non-Starbuckers that would be the grand-daddy extra large. A few moments later he is joined by a woman. She orders a small coffee and they begin chatting. The chatting starts to intensify and everyone can hear it. I glare down and see his eyes growing wider in their sockets. His face goes a few shades redder. I detect sweat trickling down the sides of his face. He becomes more animated in the conversation as each set of 5 minutes pass. I can’t concentrate on what I am doing. I am growing frustrated. I have barely touched my latte. Others have left because they had somewhere else to be or they had grown tired of his antics. It is now pushing 10 a.m. and I have managed to throw myself back into my article. Just as my re-acquainted interest has grown in my article, he does it again. Wow! He’s headed back up for another Venti. I am floored! He made quick work of that monster drink in no time and now he’s onto yet another. I don’t need my Ph.D. or background teaching courses in addictions to determine this fellow is already wired on caffeine and he’s about to up the ante to super-overdrive. Can you say zero to sixty in point zero one seconds? Let the fun begin! As I continue to try and write my article, a thought crosses my mind. I take a sip of my latte and the light bulb begins flashing my head. As the fellow with the giant coffee sits down and continues to turbo charge his central nervous system, he becomes the inspiration for this article which I start working on as I sit there and watch. I remain another 20 minutes to watch the show as a colleague joins me. My colleagues is a doctor and we indulge in this current topic which I am now working on through my observations of Mr. Venti. Speaking of Mr. Venti, he is nearly climbing out of his chair as he converses with is friend. We both notice his lady friend growing a tad bit uncomfortable. Her face is screaming, “Get me the heck out of here!” As we watch a few more moments, the caffeine continues to work it’s magic and Mr. Venti becomes more wired, loud and obnoxious. I leave to work on my article in a more private place…My office. By the way, my article is about what you are reading… Should individuals in coffee houses who have had too much caffeine to drink be cut off the same way someone in a bar who has had too much alcohol to drink be cut off?

At first blush some might find this whole notion absurd. Could someone actually get intoxicated on caffeine? The answer is yes! For starters caffeine is a drug, it stimulates the central nervous system and it is addictive. Any substance is considered a drug whenever it has the ability to change the state of the physiological body. After one cup of caffeine most individuals’ bodies will change in some capacity. The more coffee or tea you consume with caffeine the more likely you are to have a higher tolerance and probably require more to get the same fix.

The question begs to be asked… Should people be cut off in public places who consume too much caffeine? For starters, we live in very liberal societies where most parents think it’s okay for kids to drink coffee, tea, lattes, and the likes. Most don’t hold caffeine drinks with the same reverence they hold alcohol. It would seem there is even a drug hierarchy which exists in North America. Hard drugs like heroin and crack are bad and should not be tolerated. Marijuana is an illegal drug for all intents and purposes but is tolerated. Many people die of alcohol related illnesses and accidents but it’s legal and widely tolerated. Actually, let me change that to encouraged. Ever seen a beer commercial lately? I think you get my point. With that said, most responsible parents and institutions still shun the idea of teens drinking. Even though alcohol is readily available, many adults and officials are still adamant about not letting youth drink…even responsibly. Then you come to cigarettes. Tobacco is definitely not taken as serious as the monitoring of alcohol use. Much like caffeine and alcohol it’s a grand part of the socializing venture. Ah, but here is where the fun begins.

Most places if not all have band smoking in establishments. If you want to smoke, then you must go outside. If you live in North Eastern cities, socializing in bars and restaurants over smokes is a little more difficult to do. Some stats would suggest people are smoking less. If you want to socialize over drinks, you must do this in bars or establishments with liquor licenses. Most don’t open until 11 am and close at 2 or 3 am. Also, you must be of age and there are not always a lot of them readily available and accessible. So, with that said guess what is readily available on nearly every major intersection in a city or town near you? If you guessed a coffee shop you’re right! I am Canadian and if you’ve been to Canada, there are no shortages of Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, Donut Diners, Second Cups and Country Style Donuts. If you are in the USA you have many of the same coffee shops along with Dunkin Donuts.

I am not here to rip or put down the mentioned coffee shops because I attend them all on occasion, some more than others! I am here to ask a question which I think begs to be asked… How much is too much, and I am not referring to coffee shops! Should barristers and servers cut people off who they feel have consumed too much coffee? If patrons are becoming loud and obnoxious, should they be cut off or asked to leave the same way a drunk person would be asked to leave a bar or forcefully extracted by a bouncer? Hey, there’s an intriguing idea. Should coffee houses become equipped with doormen or bouncers to ask people wired on caffeine to leave? Furthermore, you could even go further and put “drinking age requirements” in coffee houses and ask patrons to present photo ID. Would you serve grade sevens and eights lattes or espressos and let them go back to class for the rest of the day where their teachers now have to deal with already wired kids going through puberty who are turbo charged on caffeine? Gee, imagine feeding these same kids who possess ADHD a couple lattes? Let the games begin!

I have always been an inquiring mind and I would love to know what the actual stats would be for people engaging in driving offences including speeding, road rage or careless driving because they are wired on caffeine. I have been stuck on highways located in Toronto, Los Angeles and Miami in the early morning and have witnessed first hand what I believe first hand are the results of one’s a.m. jolt of caffeine. Some actually appeared closer then I thought after looking in my rearview mirror. Actually, they were closer in seconds. Caffeine is the healthy alternative to speed. When operating a vehicle built for speed and being wired on something which makes you talk, walk and blink faster the implication can be pose traffic hazards.

Drinking alcohol and driving don’t mix because it slows down reaction time and impairs judgment. It would appear that drinking caffeine and driving actually speeds up reaction time. This is definitely a good thing, well that is unless the driver is on overdrive and I am not referring to the transmission on the car. What happens if the caffeine gives a distorted sense of courage due to reaction time proficiency and you start going NASCAR on a highway near you?

In most cities, provinces, states and countries it’s illegal to drink and drive an alcoholic beverage. Coppers and other drivers don’t take too kindly to seeing one cruising down the highway with a beer or margarita in their hand. Then again I have been vacationing in some countries where I’ve passed cars where I swear it was happy hour and they were serving daiquiris in mini-vans. Irregardless, it’s wrong. It’s bad! It’s just not as noble, honorable and lawful as gulping a cup of java or sipping a latte while cruising ten clicks over the speed limit. Best of all, everyone does it… Well that is almost every coffee drinker minus those driving nice cars who are obsessive compulsive with not staining their car’s interior. And just think… Cops do it all the time!

The common held belief is that if you need to find a cop the best place to look is the nearest coffee shop. Having worked with cops in the past I can attest to their being some truth to that notion. Hey, cops are not allowed to drink on the job, that is alcohol because it would impair their judgments. Would you want a drunk cop trying to catch the bad guy? Hell no! I want super cop whose taken it up a notch on caffeine. Wait… Maybe that’s why cops do coffee. It helps them become more proficient in catching the bad guys.

I was asked a factious question not too long ago after telling a fellow professor I was writing this article on caffeine. The question did hold some weight. If there were so any traffic violations as a result of caffeine consumption would they have to create drinking and driving laws for caffeine consumption? Interesting point. Would you create a breathalizer device of sorts to test blood-caffeine levels? Would cops have to start with themselves first? Perhaps they would be the ones to hook up ignition sensing starters to measure their own levels of caffeine. I can see it now… Commercials and billboards advising people to drink coffee responsibly while driving. As a matter of fact, I wonder how many of us would have to go into some kind of caffeine detox program. I have heard of some smaller support groups for caffeine. I am guessing you would see a caffeine-daddy support group created to treat this problem. The problem is it would bankrupt social services, kill the economy which is based largely based on the economic success of the coffee been and overall people would be miserable as hell! Ridding society of coffee is not the answer. My thoughts return to Mr. Venti and his obnoxious and unruly behavior. Is it possible I over-reacted? Perhaps I needed more caffeine that particular morning to lift my spirits as maybe I didn’t have enough sleep and was just overall cranky. Something I have always preached to my students is that substances can only work depending on the individual’s choice to use or not use. It’s quite possible Mr. Venti is a pain in the ass to begin with and perhaps a caffeine-free green tea or steamed milk would have produced the same results. I refuse to give caffeine a bad name all because of a few drinkers and drivers.

For now, let’s just leave well enough alone and leave coffee consumption as is. With that said, I still think the idea of seeing a barrister at Starbuck’s, Second Cup or Timothy’s cutting someone off because they’ve had too much coffee drink a cool concept. It kind of reminds me of the Soup Nazi on that famous episode of Seinfeld. In this case… “NO COFFEE FOR YOU!”