Getting Ripped Off
Photo by Blind Nomad, via Flickr
A good chunk of learning about the world involves getting duped. We’ve all been had, ripped off, taken for fools by the more conniving members of our society, and I’m willing to bet that at least 65 percent of those incidents in people's lives involved an exchange of drugs. It’s easy to rip someone off with drugs because there’s no standardized packaging of any kind, no customer service line to complain to if you’re unhappy with your purchase, and most importantly, lots of stupid, stupid kids for customers.
I was definitely ripped off the first five or eight times I bought drugs without supervision. Then I grew the balls to tell a dealer I wasn’t happy with the count. Yet, talking back to the twitchy, suburban kids of my high school was nothing compared to haggling with street dealers in Philly.
For every friendly neighborhood Shwagman, there are ten terrifying dope boys, slinging god-knows-what cut with who-the-hell-knows. The business demeanor of these dudes minimizes their repeat business from easily scared college kids, so when they get a noob in their sights, they’ll get on the take quick. It’s even worse when the targets willingly present themselves, and worse yet when said targets are tripping.
Clive was a friend of my housemates, an excitable kid who seemed too dorky to ride a motorcycle and yet owned an expensive one. He was a natural businessman, which led him to dealing drugs, but he was also a chemist in training. This combination meant Clive always had a variety of hallucinogens on hand, many of which we learned about for the first time when he ceremoniously opened his foam-lined vial case. He pulled each vial out with a flourish, rattling off an alphabet soup of chemical names and simplifying them for us with colors—the blue is synthetic mescaline, the purple feels something like a candyflip, etc, etc.
On one particular night, my housemates Taco and Kris and I embarked on a blue adventure—2CI or 2CE or something. Whatever it was, it was powerful enough to turn our house into a giant, horrific maze from which we had to escape, and we found ourselves in Kris’s car, driving around the streets of West Philly at 4 AM with no weed. Oddly, the most dangerous element in that scenario was our lack of weed, for it led us to attempt transactions with opportunistic grifters of the night.
Tripping and coasting along city streets at 20 miles an hour, we passed a group of high-school-age kids hanging out on a stoop, rocking white tees and black Dickies like a uniform. They stopped their conversations and eye balled us as we drove past. Seeing this, we concluded that they were a bunch of sketchballs and that at least one of them would have weed for sale, and so we slowed to a halt and backed the car up so we were face to face with them. Taco leaned out of his window and asked. They all laughed and then mumbled and then grew silent. One of them narrowed his eyes at us and said, “Copssssssss,” holding the S for an alarming duration. He was still hissing as Kris lifted his foot from the brake and we slowly pulled away, eyes still locked with the stoop kids. We were about a half-block away when we saw one of the kids chasing the car. This unsettling follow-up to the encounter we’d just had didn’t prompt us to speed up and exit the situation completely. Instead, we thought maybe they had changed their minds about us being cops and were now willing to sell us weed. The kid approached the window, and he probably should have just robbed us right then, but instead he decided to debase himself by making an empty promise. He said he’d get us a “lid” for 60 dollars. We weren’t familiar with that system of measurement, but it sounded like any container that requires a lid can probably fit a pretty good amount of weed in it. He asked for the money first, and when we expressed our discomfort with that arrangement, he insisted that he wasn’t fucking around. The manner in which he said this could have been construed as threatening, and that’s how we chose to perceive it in that moment. We each contributed a crumpled 20 and trustingly handed it to our new account rep.
The kid ran off immediately. Following that, we sat in silence for about five minutes before Taco said, “Oh man, I can’t wait ‘til this guy gets back with our weed, I wanna smoke so bad!” Kris and I concurred that it would, indeed, be really nice to smoke a blunt. We actually sat there for another 15 before it dawned on us that the dude was not coming back and had just made away with our cash.
And this was a shock to us! We sat there bitterly, shaking our heads at the injustice of the street drug trade. Three morons—who had just funded the purchase of Hugs and Rap Snacks for the entire group of friends—were actually surprised that someone would try to bamboozle them. Since that night, I’ve tried to figure out what drug it was we were on, if it was perhaps some kind of weird lobotomy juice that just made us idiots for a few hours. Given our clueless disposition—and the erroneous assumption that a bunch of kids hanging out late at night must have had weed on them—maybe we deserved it.
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