The Cameron Column #111
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Coffee Fiend Rats
Copyright 2000 W. Bruce Cameron
http://www.wbrucecameron.com

      In an extraordinary new scientific study which answers the question "are we giving scientists too much money to investigate this kind of stuff?", researchers have determined that providing rats the equivalent of six cups of coffee enables them (the rats) to be one percent more productive.

      Several questions immediately leap to mind. First, what, exactly, makes a rat more "productive?" Okay, yes, the coffee makes them more productive, I understand that. But what does THAT mean? The mice my son had (until he left their cage door open, and then the cat had them) "produced" only tiny black pellets. Did scientists count these pellets and find there were slightly more of them after six cups of coffee? If so, they may have inadvertently discovered a job for which my brother-in-law is qualified. As long as counting pellets doesn't involve (a) showing up for work on time or (b) showing up for work, I can see him rising to the top of his profession.

      Second, what is the "equivalent" of six cups of coffee? Maybe the scientists stuck the little rat paws into an electric outlet. In that case, heck YES there were more black pellets, probably left there by rats awaiting their turn at the socket. Do the People for the Ethical Treatment of Rodents We Would Otherwise Exterminate know about this? I'm picturing rats sitting around with tiny cups and saucers, reading the equivalent of the morning newspaper, watching the equivalent of the Today show, getting ready for the equivalent of the morning rush hour so they can get to their little rat offices and start producing one percent more pellets. The scientists studying this must feel they are doing the equivalent of contributing to society.

      Finally, if I drink the equivalent of 600 cups of coffee, does this mean I will be 100% more productive, thus able to stay home and do nothing while my more productive self goes off to work? How the heck can I be more productive if I am in the bathroom all day unloading 600 cups of coffee? If Al Gore drank 600 cups of coffee, would he change expression? (I know I certainly would!)

      Now, I'm no scientist, though my children do tell me that I "dress like a geek." But it seems to me that this was a study we didn't need to undertake. For one thing, there are not that many of us who are hoping to squeeze out a little more productivity from our rodents. For another, if this was an attempt to learn a lesson we can apply to humans, I could have saved everyone a lot of trouble. When I drink coffee in the morning, I'm able to stumble out the door, get in my car, and be late to work. When I don't, I fall asleep with my face in my corn flakes. With coffee, I'm able to carry on something resembling a conversation in the morning--though if I'm talking to my children, the answer is always "no," and if I'm talking to my wife, the answer is always "I'll do it later." Without coffee, I look like I've had a house call from Dr. Kevorkian.

      Now that we've given the rats the caffeine habit, I imagine conversations like this taking place all across the nation:

Rat # 1:How 'bout we run the maze, hit the wheel for a few spins, and then get busy producing pellets?
Rat # 2:I haven't even had my coffee yet!

      I'm not sure I understand the practical applications of all this, either. Where are rats supposed to get their coffee equivalents? I've not seen any miniature Starbucks being built around town, at least not lately. There are going to be a lot of rats suffering caffeine withdrawal, I'm sad to say. I'm warning you ahead of time so you'll not hold me responsible.

      I have a suggestion: Maybe next time the scientists should drink the coffee themselves, and then they could come up with a better idea for something to study. Like, if you gave my brother-in-law the equivalent of six cups of coffee, would he find a job?


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