Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bad at Math

It's Social Media Tuesday so I am going to rant about something I saw making the rounds on Facebook a few weeks ago: Death Wish Coffee.

I failed to grab a screencap of the actual meme that was passed from page to page, but to the best of my recollection it claimed that Death Wish was the strongest coffee in the world, with 200% more caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. It also observed that drinking it was not recommended for those with heart conditions or anyone who wants to sleep in the next three days.

Har har har.

I just found the whole thing baffling, mainly because it seems to regard caffeine as this quasi-magical substance that must be handled with delicate circumspection. I drink a ton of caffeine on the regular (and I'm well aware that this probably has a deleterious effect on my health, but that particular horse has long since left the barn). I drink my coffee every morning, seven days a week, from a comically large mug, which just might be twice the size of a standard coffee cup. I also drink soda like Coke and Mountain Dew which have plenty of caffeine themselves. I used to drink Jolt, when that was a thing. I've been mainlining caffeine since I was 16, so that's nearly three decades of constant consumption which has turned the drug into something I'm largely metabolically immune to, and at this point is somewhere between a habit I haven't kicked and a psychological placebo. Sometimes on a Saturday I might have two comically large mugs of coffee in the morning, a soda at lunch, and go to a movie at night and enjoy a medium 44 oz. soda then as well. And I never do anything once I finally get in bed other than fall asleep like a baby.

So if I were to drink a cup of Death Wish Coffee, I doubt very much it would keep me awake for days on end. It would probably just make me have to pee, maybe a little faster than the usual brew.

And the thing is, all of the above notwithstanding, I don't consider myself a coffee junkie, at least not out of any proportion compared to the average American. One thing I don't do is go to Starbucks mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, although I do see loads of people around me doing just that on a daily basis. And certainly the soda manufacturers of our fine country are not going out of business. There are loads of people drinking several caffeinated beverages over the course of any given day, is what I'm saying.

So who, exactly, would lose sleep if they so much as allowed Death Wish coffee to touch their lips? The only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that someone at some point mistakenly thought that "200% more caffeine" meant "200 times as much caffeine". Because, yes, I'll grant you that my twenty-six-and-counting years of building up a tolerance to caffeine would probably be blown away by getting two hundred doses all at once in a single cup of coffee. I daresay that much stimulant in such concentration would either leave me vibrating like a cartoon character or in fact literally kill me. But that's not what 200% more means. It means two extra, an equivalent total of three in the space of one. So drinking one cup of Death Wish coffee is like drinking three cups of regular coffee, which is something normal people do over the course of a day without batting an eye (or unbatting them when it comes time to turn in for the night). It doesn't sound like reckless self-endangerment to me so much as a bit of a timesaver.

Apparently nobody who propagates the meme has thought this through, though. They read "200% more" and think "200 cups of coffee ZOMG SO MUCH". Or maybe it's just a question of scale. If my entire yearly income were to increase by 200%, that would be life-changing. Ditto if the number of small children I had living under my roof went from three to nine. But caffeinated coffee is such a small thing in the grand scheme of life that a factor of two bump doesn't strike me as earth-shattering. All I can do is just shake my head at the arithmetic illiteracy, if in fact that's what it really is. Of course a lot of these people gobsmacked at the outrageous caffeine content of Death Wish are the same ones who complain that they can't help their kids with their Common Core math homework because it's so counter-intuitive. That's probably a screed for another day, though.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it's a callback to the legendary Jolt Cola: "All the Sugar and Twice the Caffeine."

    Or an attempt to appeal to the market segment that loves beer and hot sauces with stupid "bad boy" names. "Rat Tail Ale," "Polygamy Porter," "Anal Angst Hot Sauce," etc.

    To really make "Death Wish Coffee" sing, man, make it taste like Charles Bronson. Or market the coffee with the gimmick that one out of every twenty bags has been adulterated with some horrible ingredient, to lure in the gambling crowd. Maybe ghost peppers or habaneros? Or you could only sell it in five pound sacks and put a human skull in each bag.