When I heard about Governor Paterson's recent proposal to tax regular soda but not diet soda - as one of an array of measures to 1) help the state overcome its monstrous deficit and 2) cater to the highly influential artificial sweetener lobby - I applauded the idea. And I mean that literally - when I heard about the proposal on the six o'clock news, I stood up and slow-clapped for the better part of five minutes, continuing past the end of the soda-tax story and into the weather report.
The main reason I felt moved to express my support so openly was to annoy my father, who was also watching the news. As a man who drinks over 11 gallons of Pepsi per week, my dad views the soda tax as an assault on his civil liberties - and there's nothing I find more satisfying than treating an assault on someone's civil liberties as a joke. But I had a couple of other reasons for clapping, too.
For one, regular soda contains high-fructose corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup contributes to obesity. Diet soda, on the other hand, contains aspartame, and - according to wild, unsubstantiated Internet rumors, which almost always prove to be true - aspartame only contributes to lupus (most "scientists" disagree, of course, but what do they know? Remember that most "scientists" once believed the Earth revolved around the sun - a state of affairs we now understand to be comically inaccurate).
Clearly, then, regular soda poses an even greater health threat to New Yorkers than do tourists from New Jersey (state motto: "The most germ-ridden state in the Union!"), and the governor is right to want to shake down citizens who dare choose to defile their bodies with such a sinister, body-defiling beverage.
Furthermore, I drink diet soda, and I like the idea of the state punishing people whose tastes differ from mine. Also, I figure that as long as the state is fleecing regular soda drinkers, they won't fleece diet soda drinkers, and I'll never have to pay so much as an extra cent to feed my crippling caffeine addiction.
I've never cared for coffee, which contains far more caffeine than cola, but I like getting as hyped up on stimulants as legally possible. As a result, I consume almost as much Diet Pepsi as my dad consumes regular Pepsi.
And while I live in another state half the year, I insist (for reasons my therapist and I are trying to work out) on buying all of my soda in New York - so, considering that my budget is already stretched to its limits, a tax on diet soda would hamper my ability to stay awake for days at a time watching music videos from the mid-1990s on YouTube.
But enough about controversial soda-tax proposals. The point I've been trying to get to (in the most convoluted, illogical way possible) is that despite all the caffeine I consume, and despite my ability to stay awake for hundreds of hours straight when not doing anything productive, I have an irritating habit of falling asleep whenever I have work to do.
It's not that I suffer from narcolepsy - it's that my natural response to unpleasant tasks (like writing a 20-page paper about Ralph Waldo Emerson's poetry, for instance, or getting out of bed in the morning) is to slip into unconsciousness, no matter how wired I am. And my bouts of escapist slumber aren't limited to the comfort of my room.
I've passed out at kitchen tables, in library carrels, and - as a graduate student - in the office I share with nine/ten other people. More than once, I've awoken with a start - facedown on a desk littered with empty Diet Pepsi bottles, a sheet of paper glued to my cheek with drool - to find my office lousy with other grad students, all acting like they didn't hear me muttering lines from It's a Wonderful Life in my sleep.
But even such humiliating moments haven't cured me of my problem. In fact, such moments exacerbate the problem, because, in order to escape the humiliation, I simply fall back asleep.
The only thing that might cure me would be if the government passed a "napping in inappropriate places at inappropriate times" tax. Because if there's one thing that's been proven to rid people of their vices again and again, it's putting a tax on - or, even better, outlawing - those vices.
Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at email@example.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.