One morning last week, feeling exhausted and faced with a full day of important meetings, I needed a pick-me-up to carry me through to lunch. There are 4 coffee shops in my building, and a further 3 in the mall next door; but I have been drinking a lot of coffee lately, and while the onset of coffee-boredom would usually prompt me to switch to a strong cup of tea, in China the tea doesn’t give you that strong caffeine uppercut that you need on such a day.
So I opted for an energy drink. You can get quite a lot of energy drinks here; normal sized red bull, the small phials of concentrated super red-bull that they use to resuscitate unconscious race-horses, and quite a lot of herbal alternatives containing Jujube fruit. Fortunately it’s impossible to buy those huge cans of Monster that you often see decorating bus-stops in the UK.
I chose this shiny silver bottle of energy:
I was attracted by the possibility of experiencing the kind of hardcore, vibrant energy that you often see plants exhibiting. Plus, I understood that Maca was a kind of Peruvian plant root powder that you could add to smoothies if you wanted to make them more expensive.
I cracked it open hoping that it would be utterly disgusting. Somewhat disappointingly, it wasn’t. It tasted a lot like a flat red bull, but slightly less artificial.
Quenched, I then hopped on the tube to head in to work. It was fairly crowded and a few people bumped into me; quite normal for rush-hour in Shanghai. The bustle doesn’t normally bother me, but on this occasion I lost my cool. A middle aged gentleman backed into me, trod on my foot and in retaliation I lent over and bit him on the shoulder. As an angry mob started to gather, appalled at my behaviour, I quickly apologised and left the tube at the next station.
When I reached the office I got in the lift to go up to my floor. There was a woman insisting on holding the door open for others who kept arriving. Just as the door was about to close, she’d open it again for some other latecomer. It wasn’t good lift etiquette, so I showed her my frustration and bit her on the arm.
A little later in the day, I was in a meeting where we were attempting to agree our budget with the finance team. Things were pretty amicable, until we got onto the line item about stationery, where one of my colleagues really began to annoy me with his actions. I couldn’t contain my anger and so given he was in the vicinity, I bit him.
I was hauled into a room to explain myself by my boss who saw the whole thing. I said that it was the third time that day i’d bitten someone and that I didn’t know why I was doing it. I was told that it might be better if I went home to cool off.
Reflecting, I couldn’t believe i’d bitten another person, let alone three separate people. It wasn’t at all like me to do so; in fact i’d go so far as to say that it’s totally out of character.I started to think through what could possibly have caused it, and how that day was any different to any other day. The only thing I could think of was that i’d tried a new energy drink rather than my usual coffee. Maybe that had some kind of ingredient that caused this violent reaction in me. So I retrieved the bottle from the bin to see if that could be the case.
Then it all made perfect sense….