What Pandora Taught Me This Week: Caffeine, Work, and the American Way

Move over Oprah, I now have an electronic computer program to teach me life-lessons. Well, at least I did this morning.

Earlier today, I was listing to Pandora Radio and working on homework when this song, “Stress” by Jim’s Big Ego, came up on my playlist (not with the Disney men, of course, but this was a best version I could find on youtube–plus, it’s mashed up pretty well):

I enjoyed the song a lot (thanks Pandora), because I thought (along with a super-catchy melody) that it was a really well put together parody of how capitalism encourages people to live their lives.

The first half of the song talks about our cultural dependency on caffeine.

I’m tryin’ to cut down on my caffeine,
So when I get up
I just have one cup of coffee
And I’d like to have another cup of coffee with my breakfast.
And on the way to work, I like to get a cup of coffee.
And I like the kind of coffee you get with a doughnut
So when I get a doughnut, I get a cup of coffee.
And when I get to work I like to have a cup of coffee
Cuz I like to have coffee when I’m talkin’ on the phone.
And when it get’s a little cold I like to have another cup of coffee.
And when it’s lunch, I have an expresso.

As a student approaching looming final deadlines and completing graduate school applications, I identified with this part of the song heavily. The amount of caffeine consumed in America is a huge amount, I think we can look to the success of Starbucks as proof of that. We have a cultural dependency on caffeine, one we are socialized into. Coffee shops are appropriate hot spots for dates, wifi, and meetings–and most college campuses are equipped with more than one in the surrounding area.

How have YOU been socialized into caffeine? How many of your parents drink coffee? Do you watch Friends (coffee shop = vital part of the show)? Do you go to coffee shops? How about soda? Do you agree with me that we have a cultural dependency on caffeine? Why or why not?

The second half of the song talks about all of the leisure activities that the author of the song would like to do, but they just don’t have time.

I love to work
I love to run
I love to waterski
Mountain bike
Bungee jump
Well I mean I’d love to do these things…if I ever had the time…

This half of the song really addresses our cultures value of work over leisure. While leisure activities are the things we like to do, we don’t value them, and often our friends and family don’t value them either (if you want to learn more about this, I would highly recommend picking up Dr. Marybeth Stalp’s book Quilting: The Fabric of Everyday Life, which addresses how we value women’s leisure in the United States). For the man in the song, his lack of leisure and obsession with work eventually drove him crazy, and even in his fantasy about relaxing on an island, he was unable to give up his laptop or cell phone.

When on vacation, do you give up “connection” with the real world (i.e. cell phones and computers)? What do you do for leisure? Is leisure ever a priority? Do you have a list of things you’d  like to do “if you ever had the time”?

I do, and I know that I frequently become the person in this song, planning on doing things later. Plus I know that I am completely addicted to caffeine. Looking at the song as a whole, I found myself wondering….

Do you think we live in a “stress culture”? If so, how has technology aided this? Or, does technology provide us with more leisure time? How does capitalism encourage “stress culture”?

Anyway, as we enter into finals week, I just want everyone to remember to TAKE A BREAK. Even if it’s just a short one.

Full lyrics:

Jim’s Big Ego–Stress

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