The Red Bull Story
The Red Bull Story7 mins 426 7 mins 426
It was the year 2002. Back then I was a multimedia programmer in a UK-based company called Sherston Software. I was a very happy employee because it was a great place to work in and I just loved programming all the lovely educational titles that they conceptualized.
So, my good friend Vinay and I were working on this project for which we had to travel to the UK for gold release. Once we reached the alpha stage of any project, we traveled to the UK to work closely with the project managers and complete the project there. This practice actually expedited the development at that point of time. So off we went to the UK in May of 2002 along with a couple of others who were traveling for another project.
The office was in a beautiful quiet village called Sherston (hence Sherston Software) and our place of stay was just across the street from the office. Almost all of us spent a lot of time in office, on our own accord of course. Office was like our communication hub out there, if I might say so. Those were the days without laptops. So we could access the net, call home, etc from the office only. Beyond that all, we just loved working there because the office environment itself was very inspiring.
To cut the long story short, we faced a lot of programming challenges (which we loved of course) during the course of the project and the gold release date was approaching fast. So one such day, when we knew we had to burn the midnight oil to close many tasks, Vinay and I decided that we would stay up all night in the office and code. Of course this plan would also include listening to lovely music in the headphones, and sometimes on the speakers too. But we were worried that we might fall asleep which would greatly hinder our coding work. We had a work plan and we wanted to finish work accordingly so that it could be reviewed next morning by our Programming Head.
We checked with our Programming Head about the possible beverage options to stay awake all night. He suggested coffee (Coffee was, and is always, the programmer’s best friend and weapon of choice, next to the keyboard of course) . But we knew that wouldn't be sufficient.
That's when our Production Director walked in. We spoke to him about our thoughts after which he said ‘Yeah, there is something but I am not sure if I can suggest it to you guys’.
We persuaded him to tell us after which he said ‘You can try Red Bull. That will keep you awake.’
We were very happy to hear that, though we had never heard of Red Bull before. It could have very well been a bull’s you-know-what and we wouldn't know. We would have still drunk it. We were desperate. It was just the thing we needed. So we asked him where we could purchase a few cans. He said it would be available in a supermarket but that was some distance away from our place. He offered to drive us to the market and back. So we happily piled into his 3000cc Nissan sports car and he drove to the supermarket with an adrenaline rush. We felt that alone would have been sufficient to keep us awake all night as it would take a long time for the adrenaline to subside.
We, or rather he, bought about eight cans of Red Bull, a pound each.
Before leaving us with the cans, the Production Director told us ‘Just one Red Bull should keep you awake. If you have two, then you will feel a little funny. If you have more, you will get weird. So be careful with it’.
We nodded our heads, though we had no idea how a Red Bull would taste or react. He also said that it was used by youngsters in discotheques to keep dancing all night. That sounded good though we just wanted to code. We didn't mind dancing while coding. Anyway the music would be on.
He left us with his word of caution after which we had the office to ourselves. We settled down to work. After maybe an hour we felt a little tired, or we imagined so, and decided to drink up a can each. And so we did. Another hour went by, and we had another can each. By then we were a little geared up already, pumping our hands in the air listening to the music and working on the code (believe me, we could program even while listening to music or drama. We didn’t allow the two sides of the brain to interrupt with each other).
Another hour went by and I suggested to Vinay about having another can. He refused because the Production Director had specifically warned us against having more than two cans. Being the curious fool that I was, I still went ahead and drank up my third can. I still didn't feel too awake. And so, after another hour, I drank up the fourth! So the tally was: Vinay had 2, and I had 4. I don't remember what happened to the other two cans.
By then it was almost morning and our Programming Head came in early. We told him about the progress we had made and he made some suggestions. We went home to freshen up a bit and eat something. Once done, we were back in office working away at our codes. This is when strange things started to happen.
We were becoming more and more active, and less and less tired. We were on an overdrive. That day went by and the night came, and we were still working. We didn't feel sleepy at all. We worked through the night and the next morning we again reported to our Programming Head. We couldn't tell him that we were unable to sleep because we felt he might get all upset about it.
Time went by this way, and it was the third straight day Vinay and I had been working without feeling sleepy or tired. We were worried about it, but still thrilled all the same. Red Bull was like this miracle-medicine that could buy us time by eliminating sleep!
By around 4.30 pm in the evening on the 3rd day, during a conversation with a group of colleagues there, it came to light that we hadn't had a wink of sleep in three days. All of them around us were appalled to hear about it. They literally pushed us out of the office, asking us to go home and rest well. They said they were more concerned about our well-being and didn't want us to work on the project putting our health at risk. So we promised them that we would go home and rest. We left office at 5 pm and headed home.
Back home, we headed to our rooms on the attic. I didn’t change out of my formals straightaway. I sat on the bed a while thinking about all that had happened and about the project as well. Then I thought I would just lie down for a few minutes. I hadn't even removed my shoes. So with my shoes on, formals on, belt on, I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes. This was at 5.30 in the evening. I woke up at 2 pm the next afternoon! My body was shivering, like it was a combustion engine starting up. I came down the stairs and saw the rest of them having lunch in the kitchen. Vinay said he had woken up just a short while back. And I had slept for more than 20 hours straight!
Not a bad gamble when you could stay awake for almost 72 hours straight. But then I promised myself that I would never do it again because I saw firsthand how the body reacted to lack of sleep. That ended my affair with Red Bull after a wild swing with four of them in one night!