In the interests of science, or journalism, or both, I am currently on my sixth Coke of the day.
There was a study recently that indicated that teenagers who drank more than fourteen cans of soda per week were nearly twice as likely as their non-caffeinated, non-carbonated peers to carry weapons and engage in domestic violence.
Post blogger Rob Stein related the study’s findings: “About 23 percent of those who drank one or no cans of soda a week carried a gun or knife, and 15 percent had perpetrated violence toward a partner. In comparison, among those who consumed 14 or more cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or knife and 27 percent had been violent toward a partner, the researchers found. Similarly, violence towards peers rose from 35 percent to 58 percent while violence towards siblings rose from 25.4 percent to 43 percent.” And drink five or more cans of non-diet soft drinks, and the odds of your having consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes one or more times in the past month dramatically increased.
This sounds about right. Most of the time when I was getting into knife fights in high school it was because I happened to be between my peers and the Diet Coke machine.
In the interests of science, I decided to undergo the transformation myself. No sooner would I down my first fourteen colas, than I would unleash the beast that had always lurked within me. I bid a tearful farewell to my colleagues. “Jekyll is going away,” I informed them. “Hyde is about to take over.” Farewell, milquetostey days of yore, when I was in the group consuming zero non-diet soft drinks! Once I was done with these Cokes I was going to be functionally indistinguishable from Wolverine. My enemies would fear me. My friends would try to stage interventions. I would rappel down buildings using only a bowie knife and my bare hands, to dispense a rough brand of justice in the alleyways. Or something.
It must have been the sodas that were leading the youth astray. Surely it wasn’t an environmental factor of any kind that was otherwise present at this Boston public school. It was the soda that did it.
On my third Coke, I sensed the transormation beginning. I snarled at a
passerby. I felt a slight twinge in my kidney. I wondered if there were some league of concerned parents on whose annual conclave I could
descend, Hunter S. Thompson-style, hopped up on the very subtance they so deplored.
By my fifth, I was having difficulty typing. My brain was afire. "I
must try alcohol and cigarettes," I yelped, startling a tour group. My
fingers were twitching like a frog mid-dissection. I couldn't keep
writing, because I had the uncontrollable urge to go brandish a knife
I prowled down the street looking for a brawl. I discovered that I was concealing all sorts of weapons.
Who knew that soda would have such an effect? Fourteen a week — that’s only two a day. It seemed paltry. Just two a day? Enough to double the violence? Next we’ll be using this in court. “Officer,” we’ll say. “I was under the influence. Of Coke. Not that kind of coke, the other kind. The not-Pepsi kind.”
This seemed wrong somehow.
With cola enhancing my brain, I could feel my thoughts whirring frantically, like a hamster wheel during the week when the hamster is still committed to its New Year’s Resolution. Surely soda doesn’t stab people. At worst, it dampens them and leaves stains in their white t-shirts. Maybe this is another of those disappointing cases where the most logical explanation is not the most colorful.
They say groups with higher IQs go to bed later. But so do Cool People. Malingering on school nights loses its cachet if it’s over by ten. Did you see any of those people in West Side Story going to bed early? No wonder they kept needing to stop off for soda. (West Side Story is where I get most of my information about gangs, which tells you what a brawler I am by nature. The only reasons I would stay awake past my bedtime would be to watch biopics of Edwardian authors while my parents slumbered.)
I had too much homework to be knife-fighting. Domestic violence? I could barely get someone to come to prom without threatening anything.
Maybe soda wasn’t the cause of these more harrowing lives. Maybe it was just one of many effects.
“It's not you, it's me,” as correlation once said to causation.