Dispatches | November 26, 2010

So you could read Slate’s slightly insightful, mostly irksome article about the so-called divide between “MFA” and “NYC” literary cultures, or you could read about my solution to a more immediate and vexing problem. I’m talking, of course, about coffee creep.

The Coffee Creep

It used to be that when I wrote for long hours in a stretch, I’d drink a lot of coffee. Too much. (And yet I don’t think I’m addicted to coffee as much as to the ritual of working beside a soothing, hot drink. Were America a chicken soup culture, I’d be drinking that instead. But we aren’t a chicken soup culture, we’re a coffee culture, and so that’s what I drink.) If you’re like me, then you’ve noticed how easily a cup can become two, then three. Or, in Starbucks lingo, how easily a “tall” becomes a “grande,” then a “venti.”

The trouble is that too much coffee, according to the Mayo Clinic, can cause:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Nausea or other gastrointestinal problems
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

I don’t especially like any of those things. So a couple of years ago, I went scientific, studying my own coffee-drinking habits, and determined that as long as the coffee stayed hot, I sipped. But when it cooled, I gulped so that I could get a hot refill.

Enter the mug warmer.

This handy device, yours for around ten bucks, will keep your mug warm, yes?

No. Trouble is, nearly all mugs have recessed bottoms, meaning that only the mug’s bottom rim touches the heating device. After an unsuccessful search for a mug without a recessed bottom, I discovered a workaround: the plastic cap. If you can cover your mug so that the steam doesn’t escape, even the slow-acting mug warmer will do its job.

Because I love infomercials, I happen to own the Magic Bullet blender. And the Magic Bullet’s cap fits perfectly over my mugs.But any solid piece of material will do as long as steam won’t ruin it. Use a coaster! Or a first aid kit!

Your coffee will stay hot, and you’ll cut down on your coffee intake. You’ll feel less restless, achy, and irritable.

Unless you’re just an irritable person. Then you’re on your own.

Michael Kardos is the author of the story collection One Last Good Time, forthcoming in February 2011 from Press 53. While earning his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, he served as Contest Editor for The Missouri Review. He currently co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. His website is michaelkardos.com.