Soda Protocols

“Daddy’s magic thinking juice.” This is how I often describe the bottles and cans in my fridge, much to the confusion of friends and family.

“I didn’t know you even had kids,” they say, cautiously. “Nor that your shame over your escalating drinking problem is such that you feel a need to use an elaborate euphemism to conceal the scale of the problem from your loved ones.”

Well, neither thing is true. Often, alcohol consumption is linked to parenthood often in one’s frolicky teen years but I only have a nodding relationship to both concepts. No, I describe my onhand inventory of soda that way because over the course of a long writing day, a glass of something fizzy and tasty helps to grease the gears of productivity. When I’m in my last 20 days before a book deadline, my blood is about 20% phosphoric acid.

The Soda Protocols by Andy Ihnatko.

We went down the route of the diet soda long time ago, too. Full-sugar beverages taste excessively cloying to me most of the time. A couple of years ago I started to worry about the amount of artificial sweeteners I was drinking, and cut out carbonated sweetened beverages completely for a while, but the habit didn’t stick. Last summer I rediscovered Spezi, and went wild with fruit flavourings: slicing up half an orange or lemon (or both!), crushing them into the bottom of a cup, and filling it up with diet cola. This has the side benefit of making cheap off-brand diet cola taste wildly excellent.

My current preferred carbonated beverage is diet cola with a splash of orange juice, ideally the kind with lots of pulp. The pulp floats to the surface, and forms an orange-brown felted mat on the surface of the drink. To the uninitiated it looks like swamp water, but it’s fruity and refreshing with all same caffeinated goodness. In terms of protocols, I have two that I’m trying to stick to for my standard daily at-home routine:

  1. No caffeinated beverages after about 18:00 (ish). I find I get to sleep more easily without caffeine in the evening.
  2. Stick to 300ml mugs and cups. If I put the drink in a larger cup or mug, I drink it just as fast, and return to the kitchen just as often. That leads to increased bladder pressure and more bouncing around in my chair.

(Exceptions apply.)

When I’m in the office in Edinburgh, I drink my cola from cans or bottles. I drink more slowly from cans and bottles, because I tend to take a single sip and then put the container aside for a while. With a cup or a mug, I’m much more inclined to take several gulps at once, or drain it from half-way full. I don’t understand the psychology here. I suspect it’s because of the social pressure – when I’m surrounded by co-workers, I’m more inclined to show moderation.

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