Exclusively Online | Fall 2018 Issue

“A Lighter Look”

Rick Meyer's regularly appearing column takes a lighter look at politics and public affairs around the world. This month: Switzerland is a sensible place, but this is a bad idea.

By Richard E. Meyer


The Swiss think coffee might not be essential for human survival. I’m part Swiss, and they’re wrong. Forget survival; I need coffee to be functional.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m American and proud of it. As Bruce Springsteen would say, “Born in the USA.” But my mother immigrated from Switzerland, and she had a cup of coffee every morning. She would be shocked.

Switzerland, by a recent account in the Washington Post, is deciding whether to continue stockpiling coffee in its bomb shelters.

There are 300,000 of them, “designed to withstand nuclear attacks or other threats to humankind,” as the Post put it, “deep beneath the about 700,000 bell-clanging dairy cows chewing soft grass, drinking from clean glacier rivers and staring at snowy mountains.”

Who knew?

Here in the United States, politicians and the government are practiced at making moon-dog mistakes. But in sane, stable Switzerland?

It’s a certifiably bad idea to stop stashing coffee inside bomb shelters. Swiss officials say they will make up their minds by November. But they seem to be telegraphing a verdict. “Coffee has almost no calories,” the government says, “and subsequently does not contribute, from the physiological perspective, to safeguarding nutrition.”

Wait! What about the psychological perspective?

I go nuts without coffee. Ask my wife.

No telling what I would do without coffee during the apocalypse.

Never mind that coffee can make you nervous, anxious, even agitated. When Dan White assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and fellow supervisor Harvey Milk, his defense psychiatrist said he had been binging on Twinkies and Coke. He got off with voluntary manslaughter. It became known as “the Twinkie defense.” He should have blamed too much coffee. He would have been acquitted.

Never mind that coffee can upset your stomach, cause nausea, even vomiting. Just add more cream. Never mind that coffee can make you breathe faster, increase your pulse rate, even invite your heart to jitterbug. Find a chair, and sit out the dance. Never mind that coffee can give you a headache, ringing in your ears and insomnia. Don’t be dumb; don’t drink two cups after watching Colbert.

What you never want to do, though, is wake up in a nuclear shelter, stumble around and discover there’s no arabica.

The Swiss are being more than a little hypocritical. “Few nations in the world,” the Post says, “drink more coffee per capita than the Swiss.”

There must be some people, in what could have been my homeland, who are interested in the priorities of necessity. On their behalf, I am mounting a campaign to keep coffee in the bomb shelters.

Indeed, double the supply. And add a little schnapps.


Richard E. Meyer

Richard E. Meyer

Meyer is the senior editor of Blueprint. He has been a White House correspondent and national news features writer for the Associated Press and a roving national correspondent and editor of long-form narratives at the Los Angeles Times.

Post navigation



Money. Politics. Power.

Martin Gilens imagines a new democracy