When putting out metaphorical fires, it’s generally a good idea not to add any literal ones into the mix.
I didn’t this past week, but it was a nearer miss than I would have preferred.
I spent most of my twenties self-medicating my ADHD with coffee. My grad advisor used to text me before conference presentations to make sure I’d gotten my daily dose. He observed that I was always calmer after a venti double shot. I credited a coffee shop for my thesis acknowledgments. I always wanted one of those necklaces with the chemical structure of caffeine, but then I felt guilty because I somehow never managed to have the physical effects that other coffee addicts wore like badges of honor as overextended graduate students pulling long hours. How could I claim to be a true caffeine junkie worthy of her necklace when I truly could stop at any time? It was everyone else, not me, who practically forced me to keep imbibing! How could I be a true caffeine addict when I didn’t suffer for my art with shakes and withdrawal symptoms when I did stop, and when I was even one of those lucky migraineurs who benefitted from caffeine instead of it touching off further migraines?
I have fallen out of my daily coffee habit post-diagnosis. Coffee has nothing on real ADHD meds, and it’s expensive when it needs to come from a coffee place within walking distance of my work in a financial district. It is, however, still a psychological crutch I rely upon during stressful periods in my life. I am not sure if it’s the coffee itself, the walk to get the coffee from the local barista, or even the enforced social interactions with my office mates while I make the rounds and ask if they’d like a cup, too, that is most helpful, but, in any case, I will still overspend on fancy coffee as a coping strategy. The ritual of getting coffee gives me a much-needed emotional breather during the work day on the bad days.
I tend to forget my coffee on my desk until it is too cold to be worth drinking. As a result, I also own a little electric coffee warmer that I have had since grad school. I can set a paper to-go cup on it, and it will keep the coffee at just the right temperature to nurse slowly over an hour or two. The warmer has never burned the paper cup, and it has an impossible-to-ignore blinking orange light that flashes while it is on.
This is helpful because I am too oblivious sometimes to feel physical sensations like heat radiating off hot burners. I have ADHD, and, as if that wasn’t enough, I can function in a state of partial dissociation on top of it. I need a highly salient visual cue that something is, in fact, hot to save me from myself. Little things like on/off switches alone aren’t always enough to catch my eye. Heck, I am so inattentive that I sometimes must resort to physically unplugging my flat iron from the wall before I leave in the morning just to be sure I took care of it, but I’ve never forgotten to turn off my coffee warmer. The orange LED light reminds me. Or, it used to remind me.
It failed me last week. After my last cup of coffee, I never turned the warmer off. I had a moderately hot disc situated next to my hand all day and was completely oblivious to its warmth because there was no orange blinking light. I went home over the weekend and left it on. I continued to be oblivious most of Monday. Later in the afternoon when I went for more coffee, I finally noticed the problem.
The coffee warmer was more than moderately warm! It was genuinely hot – but thankfully not sparking or singed! Its heating coil must have been very well engineered! I’m not sure whether to curse the brand for their failed LED light creating a risky situation in the first place or bless their engineers for creating a heating unit that could stay on for so long without catching fire.
I have said many times before that I am ambitious and hope to eventually see my career catch fire – but not like that!
You know how some companies ban space heaters in winter? Do companies need to start banning coffee warmers, too? I disposed of the coffee warmer in question, but I know I must eventually decide whether to buy another one. There are more expensive ones that claim to have an auto shut-off feature. They aren’t from the same company, though. Should I stick with the brand that didn’t fail me when the heat was on, even though it doesn’t have an auto shut off feature? Should I buy the more expensive warmer with the auto shut off feature and assume it’s also well-enough designed that it, too, will never even burn a paper to-go cup? Anything less than that level of heating regulation probably would have gotten me fired at work! Should I give up and decide I can’t have hot things?
Or should I assume I’ll learn to be more attentive after this scare such that it doesn’t really matter which brand I buy?
Spoiler alert: no! I don’t know whether I’ll buy another coffee warmer for work, or which I’ll invest in if I do decide I trust myself to have one.
I do know; however, not to rely on myself alone. I am way too inattentive for that! Clearly, even supposedly idiot-proof features don’t always work. I didn’t fail to notice the flashing orange light of danger on my old coffee warmer – it just failed to flash! Yet, I’d be an idiot to think I’m not the idiot those safety features were designed for in the first place.
Have one fiery-colored Where’s Whoopsie this week, and two serene pastel pink colored ones. Because, after all, there was no fire. What a relief.