Note to self: depriving yourself of Peet’s when you’re used to it every morning is not a good way to make friends. My brother and I are riding this unpleasant tsunami together which has been a trip because a) no one around us believes we have the wherewithal to abstain from coffee and b) suddenly our co-workers don’t like us. Hmm, that’s weird. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that we walk into work snapping and barking rather than making jokes. Gee, why is everyone dispersing in all directions like they were just hit with a mushroom cloud? As if taking a nosedive in popularity hasn’t been an unpleasant enough side effect from this challenge, I can’t even bring myself to write anything that is slightly more entertaining a tax document. No wonder Hemingway was a drinker. He didn’t want to bore his audience to death. No alcohol, no caffeine? I might as well start writing about the migration patterns of the European pine sawfly. Where is the edge in that? Without coffee or alcohol I just feel like a bland flatliner with nothing interesting to say.
Thanks to the live feed on Facebook, my brother and I have been taking potshots at each other and antagonizing as the Facebook press conferences roll on. At this point, so as not to kill anyone, we’ve desperately started looking for loopholes. Question #1: Does decaffeinated green tea count? I say yes because he’s probably getting a little hit from the traces of caffeine while I’m over here walking across hot coals with my peach tea. ‘What about coffee enemas then?’ I ask. ‘I think we could slip that one under the radar.’ Well, he literally had a hernia at the very mention of ‘coffee enema’:
“Of course a coffee enema counts!!!!!!!!! Where do you think the caffeine is absorbed from when it goes in your mouth? Whether you put it in through the entrance or exit, it’s still absorbed in the gut!! I may be getting irritable…. it’s the lack of caffeine talking …………”
After I talked him off the ledge and he informed me that no matter what I couldn’t break him, I asked him to get back to me when I extended the 10-day challenge to 30 days. No big, just a few more days. His reply: “Hmmm, this sounds like ‘Come on, you can jump off the 10th step…..it’s only one higher than the 9th!!’
And of course now I have to tell the story. I am three years older than my brother which has always given me instant powers of authority, seniority and general privileges of automatic idolization. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t always take advantage of my stature and used it to manipulate. The story to which my brother was referring happened when I was 11 and he was about 8. He was always fearless and athletic so I decided to challenge him to “The Basement Step Game.” To be fair, it really wasn’t a game per se, because we weren’t competing – it was a one person “game”, there were no prizes and no real object of the game other than to see how far I could push his jumping skills without him cracking his head open as well as his willing subservience. After getting to the 9th step of our basement stairs and jumping down on stone cold concrete I gloried in his recent victory with effusive praise and reasoned with him that if he could jump off of the 9th step, surely he could jump off the 10th! By this time, he was hobbling up the stairs, legs shaking and probably in a bit of pain, but more keen on the love and approval of his sister who clearly had no agenda other than wanting to see him thrive and make it to the 16th step.
No wonder that 20 years later when I decide to take him through another gruelling test ‘The 10-day No Caffeine Challenge” and surreptitiously attempt to extend the boundaries he becomes defensive: “Hey, wait a minute….this seems a little familiar…“Come on, you can jump off the 10th step…..it’s only one higher than the 9th!!”.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So yes, I guess I ‘ve jeopardized my powers a bit with that whole basement step jumping thing and lost some credibility. It is unlikely he will rise to the next level and answer to the 30-day challenge. On the other hand, never underestimate the seduction of competition and triumph on a public forum, or the rabid and blind desire to please big Sis!