Although I started out on this blog entry with a "tongue-in-cheek" approach intended, I realized that the merits of coffee may well be a serious conversation. Let's be honest, the "coffee drinking cop" stereotype is second only behind the "donut eating cop" stereotype. On television, NCIS Special Agent Gibbs is famous (or infamous?) for drinking his coffee strong and black. But is coffee really that much of a friend to law enforcement professionals?
I started my love affair with coffee when I was in my late twenties. Up until that point, I drank coffee only during 24-hour shifts in the Army and sometimes on midnight shifts when I found myself dragging. For whatever reason (I'm going to blame a change in my metabolism that also contributed to weight gain) when I reached the age of thirty, coffee suddenly became a much closer ally. Now as I approach, well... um... as I get older, I find myself almost dependent on my morning coffee: all three cups of it.
I've seen studies that said coffee contributed to arthritis - but only if you drank more than four cups per day. I've seen studies that said coffee helped prevent cancer, but only if you drank three or more cups per day. I've even seen one study that said coffee could help balance your bank account. Okay... that last one is an exaggeration but seriously... if you're a coffee drinker, usually you feel like you can have, or are having, a more productive day once you've got that first cup or two in.
On the other hand... I know people who just about live on the stuff and it's not pretty. I knew a man who was a Navy service veteran, spending his retirement working as a maintenance director for a major theme park. His breakfast each day was a 20 ounce cup of coffee, black. No cream, no sugar. His lunch was the same: another 20 ounce cup of coffee, black. He actually ate something he had to chew for dinner. Then again, the way he sometimes talked about his coffee, he might have had to chew it on occasion.
I also know a woman whose doctor ordered her to stop drinking coffee. She was drinking so much (about 20 CUPS per day) that her heart rate was permanently accelerated. Where the adult human average is about 70 beats per minute (BPM), hers was about 110 BPM. Um, yeah... that's a bit excessive.
So, what's the lesson we learn? The same one we probably heard as a child and that applies to almost everything we enjoy in life: Everything in moderation.
My doctor tells me that two to three servings of caffeine a day is okay. He advises that I should NEVER go over five. Cool. I start each day with two or three cups of coffee with milk and sugar. I have to admit: I still really don't like the taste of coffee. I drink it for the caffeine and the sugar I mix in. If I have any more caffeine in my day it's either iced tea or the rare soda. I never drink coffee after five p.m. because, well, I like to sleep.
And that brings up another challenge we police officers face when it comes to coffee enjoyment/dependence: how it can hurt our sleep cycle. Let's face it: our sleep cycle is screwed up enough by rotating shifts, court appearances when we're scheduled to work midnights, and emergency call outs at two a.m. Do we really need to pump caffeine into our system that doesn't allow us to sleep fitfully? Nope. I agree. We sure don't.
Now if you'll excuse me... my coffee cup needs a refill!