Southern Weird

I held my breath.

I always hold my breath when the scientists at Harvard sound the bell and tell us to gather round.

Harvard scientists are always up to something, studying one thing and then another. You can never  know what they are going to come up with next.  Whatever it is though, you can bet that it is going to be life changing; some fun activity that you’ve done all your life and that you better drop immediately or face the prospect of grim death.  Or they’ve come up with some new super food such as domestic loblolly pine tree bark or imported Latvian lawn mulch that you have to start eating in order to add about fifteen minutes to your life expectancy.

Since I can no longer hold my breath as long as I once could, I am gratified that Harvard’s announcer quickly makes her point.  Get this: drinking coffee – in fact lots of it — can be good for you!

She says the boys in the lab have determined that consuming mass quantities of coffee protects one from death from prostate cancer. The announcer said they’d studied and verified it all by following 47,911 men, who drank up to six cups of coffee per day for years and years. (47,911!? …   six cups a day? … for years and years? The mind boggles at the numbers but if you’re a guy who always thought that you were being followed, you may not have been paranoid after all. It was likely a Harvard scientist spying on you.)


My most recent cup of java was during the waning days of Lyndon Johnson’s Administration.  Once, during an all-night study session, in preparation for the final in Chemistry 103, I kept both the night and the Sandman at bay by guzzling down three large pots of black coffee. Afterwards, I walked around hyped-up, bugged-eyed and ‘Sleepless in Atlanta’ for three more days. I went ‘cold turkey’ and swore off the bean forever.

Honesty compels me to admit, however, that I’ve also spent much of the time since then feeling smug and superior to the whole crowd of coffee drinkers  I’ve known and sometimes even loved: friends, BFF’s, enemies, ‘frenemies’, wives, ex-wives, co-workers, fishing partners, golf buddies, and even business competitors. Most of them could barely function without drinking two vats of coffee each,  every morning.

I never laughed in their faces. Rather, I engaged in what you might call ‘a deft form of smuggery’ regarding  their coffee jones from where it was safe: behind their backs and under my breath.  It’s safer to talk about someone’s mother than their coffee jones or to get between a committed coffee drinker and the coffee maker. One does either at one’s own peril.

Instead, I often watched them in quiet bemusement and said to myself, with smug self-assurance, “You’ll never catch Will Cantrell handing over $4.95 to a BigBucks barista. What’s more, I won’t ever need to be multi-lingual like the rest of ‘em. I don’t care to know what the difference is between a Vente, a Grande, and a Latte. Nope, I’m not of them coffee addicts. Not me. Humphf!”

I was what might be called ‘coffee smug’.


The Harvard Study is good news for some people … especially consumers of the bean, who have prostates.

Not me, however.

I do not drive a Lamborghini. I have no looming financial  inheritance, no six pack abs, no 3.5 college GPA, no Ivy League degree, no athletic prowess … no any such thing. My one measureable, but unspoken  advantage in an increasingly competitive world was a self-satisfied reassurance that at least I didn’t crave drugs, especially the dark roasted mountain blend.

But now, after the latest Harvard University study, I have nothing about which I can be secretly smug and superior.

So while legions of coffee drinkers everywhere are happy, I’m not. Call it karma if you will. I am not generally a believer in such, but it seems that in this particular instance, karma has slapped me in the face and gotten my attention: “Those coffee drinkers were right all along, Cantrell. This’ll teach you to go around acting all smug and everything around them. Jerk!”


Thing is, there used to be a time when you could count on what people said. It seems however, that things have begun to unravel these last five or six hundred years:

At one time the truth was that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the Earth.

No doubt you remember all that  hullabaloo about Pluto a few years back.  For most of our lives, the absolute truth was that it was a planet, the ninth one; now, not so much.

“Drink bottled water it’s safer than the stuff that comes from the tap,” we’re told back in the Eighties. A generation later, after everybody is hooked on bottled water, the science boys come back and effectively say “Aw-shucks folks, we wuz  just goofin’. That bottled stuff tain’t no better after all. And besides you people are polluting the planet with all those plastic bottles …”

“Fish is brain food, eat lots of it,” teachers and parents told us. Then we started catching ocean halibut that had warning labels imprinted on their dorsal fins: “Eat me at your own risk. I contain 2 million times the safe amount of mercury.”

“Don’t drink coffee. It’s bad for you. It stunts your growth and may even be carcinogenic,” we were once admonished.  Now, we’re told “Drink all the java you want. Guzzle it down, ‘bub, specially if you have a prostate.  In fact here’s a few 20% OFF coupons you can use at  BigBucks.”

Jeez, you never know what science – and those Know-It-Alls at Harvard — are going to change their minds about next, but its hard to make plans when the truth is always being changed on you.


So it turns out that everybody else but me  was right about coffee. all along.  Maybe I should’ve joined the coffee klatch after all. I’ve now got to go find something to be smug and superior about. This is gonna be a tough one. There’s not a lot for me to choose from and you can bet that I am just barely adequate at any of whatever my options might turn out to be.

In the meantime, I am just hopeful that the boys in the lab don’t come out and say something like  ‘they’ve studied it and that nine out of ten Harvard scientists agree that broccoli has absolutely no health benefits whatsoever’. Or worse, that fast cars, hot women and liquor — lots of all of them — are good for a body. Boy, that’s be just my kind of luck. I’d be really upset.

I might even hold my breath again.

And this time, until I turn blue.

© Copyright 2011 Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.