A Life Less Ordinary: Why Energy Drinks?

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A Life Less Ordinary: Why Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks are payment for a crime we haven’t committed yet. They are not products of the present time, but seem to have arrived from some unspeakable, sleepless future, where naps are a joke and the only dreams available are the ones you get when you’ve been awake for three whole days and nights.

I have consumed energy drinks. Yes. I have known the world in my time, and in particular the part of the world that is liquid and comes from garish, Ed Hardy-looking cans. Energy drinks consist of terrible industrial chemicals. Drinkers of energy drinks use these chemicals to encourage wakefulness and attentiveness. To even drink energy drinks bespeaks a kind of contempt for civilization. I don’t mean civilization of the Sorbonne and Oxford brand, the kind that composes Latin poems about erotic flourishes in Greek temples. By civilization, I mean basic human dignity.

Your tastes may vary. I drink my energy drinks at room temperature. Refrigerating them would be too much collaboration with the energy drink. I’m like a robber who doesn’t look at the gun he’s about to use, until it’s absolutely necessary. Indeed, I consume energy drinks like teens “listen” to jazz stations: it’s background music while you do more important stuff. The energy drink drinker is not drinking energy drinks because they are addicted, or because they like the taste. They are consuming them because they want more time, and to violate the laws of nature—to be wakeful when you shouldn’t be.

About those natural laws. Here is how my chain of logic led me to energy drinks: I envied plants their ability to draw sustenance directly from their unholy sky king, the sun. I’ve tried standing in the sun for extra energy, and all I got was a grotesque mass of peeling skin. I even asked nicely, and instead this is the thanks I get—20 days of lying in a dark room submerged in a tank of aloe vera, asking why.

Since the sun cannot deliver me the extra energy I need, and since most electricity does not flow directly into my veins from wall plugs, it seems that I must bow down to Mr. Stomach and consume perishable goods to give me go-juice.

The perishable goods which are bringing me both might and magic in a largely metaphorical sense are energy drinks. I should stipulate right here, right now, that I have no idea what chemical carcinogens they are pumping into these mickle potions, and I probably would need a degree in human-poisoning sciences to figure out what in energy drinks makes me go.

Indeed, who among us would drink energy drinks, if we had the adequate glands which would allow us to power through a 36-hour day? But we don’t, so we must turn to the Babylon of caffeine, the fiendish energy drink. My particular brand is called Monster Energy Zero Ultra Energy Drink.

Fun fact: Energy drinks are for people who have decided Coffee is not Enough. Think about what that means. Really consider that. If coffee is for closers, then who are energy drinks for?

Fun fact: you encourage the chance of a stroke every time you acknowledge energy drinks, in any way, publicly. It’s like talking about colonialism at the G20 or bringing up the American Empire to your junior high history teacher: it’s just not done. You are a biological target for what energy drinks provide.

Fun fact: every civilization exists on the back of its Id, the thing it denies. The shadow, if you will. Energy drinks are ours. On average, due to our weird Protestant fevers and our unjust economic system, Americans work more hours than most people in the developed world. Until Congress or Sodexo Marriot makes the hardcore uppers legal or over-the-counter, energy drinks are the closest Americans can legally get to the white-knuckle thrills that users of speed, meth, and the whole phenethylamine galaxy of stimulants enjoy. That is why it’s crucial to drink them rarely, if at all.

The experience of drinking Monster Energy Zero Ultra Energy Drinks—my God, I think I just gave up some portion of my soul typing those words into the keyboard—may be divided into two ribald portions: Before Shame and After Shame. That is how you consume energy drinks. It’s like eating barbecue ribs: there will be a grotesque spectacle involved no matter how neat you try to be.

Energy drinks are the price we pay for living the way we do now: rocking it out at the club and the boardroom and on the Internet and pretty much everywhere else rocking out is done. It’s been said that material conditions create their own ideologies. The industrial barons of the Victorian era invented Social Darwinism to defend their worker-cheating. The modern era of inequality uses words like market, meritocracy, and global to argue for their bizarre system. But I’d go a step further: material conditions don’t just create ideology, they create products to go with that ideology. In the modern world, traditional communities are torn apart. Instead of belonging to one village or faith, we belong to Nike and Louis Vuitton. We don’t belong to one part of the rural community: Ephraim, Wisconsin, or Doyle, California or Carnesville, Georgia: we belong to the “Country” brand. And energy drinks are absolutely an outgrowth of this system. After all, the only point of forever having more is having more time to enjoy it. Energy drinks are the American dream. We used to rise with the dawn; now it’s just easier to stay up all night.

Photo by Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0