Photo courtesy of the author
At my last job, I worked at an office where everyone smoked weed throughout the day. We were the creative branch of a corporation, but the parent company's corporate structure rarely affected us. In our domain, there was no hierarchy, and we had no bosses. Three of the photographers were under 21 when I started working with them, and they smoked more weed than I did—they even smoked at work. Every morning, they started work on the fire escape with coffee and a blunt. I had never smoked at my previous jobs, but after a day or two, I adopted the office culture and started following protocol: I came in early, checked my emails, planned my day, and then at around 11 AM hopped onto the fire escape to smoke a spliff. I hated the fire escape, but our building was in a busy area, so it was the only place we could smoke freely. The photo guys always looked so relaxed on the fire escape, chilling on a tenuous metal frame that hung above the pavement. While they screwed around and held onto the bar, daringly dangling their bodies four stories over the ground, I stood against the wall, smoking quickly so I could hurry back inside through the window.
I never became comfortable standing on the fire escape, but I did get used to being high at work. On some days, smoking helped me relax and focus on doing one task at a time. On other days, weed made me struggle to concentrate, and I spent three hours on reddit instead of working—it evened out because I consistently had great ideas when I was stoned. As long as I could soberly hash out my ideas, I was able to blaze early in the day and get all the creative stuff done before handling the grunt work. It went well until winter came, making the fire escape an inhospitable place to smoke. At first we braved the cold and carefully walked on the frozen metal bars, but as soon as we hit our first 20-degree day, we gave up and started smoking inside, realizing that no one was making us smoke on the fire escape. There were no bosses, so we could smoke at our desks.
When several potheads share a small space for ten hours a day, they all end up smoking more. At any given time, at least one person will want to smoke, and everyone will hear this and then will abandon their work for an undeserved break. For several weeks, our office was a melee. Other companies’ employees came in for meetings and couldn’t believe what they saw. A few times, I rolled a joint and then lit it in the middle of a meeting to see if I could get away with it. Smoking at work became such an ordinary practice that I unconsciously started breaking up a bud with one hand while I typed with the other—that’s what I was doing when the landlord walked in one Tuesday.
The landlord was a middle-aged white guy who desperately wanted to appear like he was on our level. After some awkward chitchat, he said that it smelled great in our office, but he requested that we stop smoking indoors. He was friendly about the whole thing, so we didn’t see any cause for alarm. He must have changed his mind pretty quickly, because we got a call from HQ almost immediately. The CEO had heard from the landlord and was finally bringing the hammer down. Looking back, the reprimand was probably long overdue—there’s a moderate level of weed-smoking that can make a creative workplace function better, but it’s easy to overdo it. We cleaned up our act long enough for HR to inspect our operation and give it their stamp of approval. There was no way we would withstand another run-in with the landlord, so we went back to smoking on the fire escape. By now, winter was well underway, and it was cold as shit outside.
Snow started falling one morning when I was standing on the fire escape smoking a spliff with Spills, another editor. As usual, I had my back against the wall, while Spills stood in front of me facing the window. We were halfway through the joint and both laughing when I saw his eyes widen. He saw something behind my head and looked terrified. Before I could ask, I heard the window shatter, and I was showering in shards of glass. I looked down and saw pieces of glass fall through the fire escape and smash onto the sidewalk, startling some passers-by. Spills told me to hold still as he pulled glass off of me. I stood still, trying not to shake any glass onto the sidewalk. He pulled a giant shard out of my hair and handed it to me. “You can thank your hair bun for keeping that out of your scalp,” he said. I was unharmed. I lost the joint, but I’m sure someone found it on the sidewalk and smoked the rest of it.
Later I found out that someone from HQ had delivered a life-size puppet of our CEO to our office that morning, probably to strike a little fear into us. One of my coworkers found it and figured he would scare the crap out of us. He snuck over to the window and slammed its head a little too hard onto the glass behind me. Yeah, I was the one standing in a dangerous spot when our coworker pulled the prank, but Spills had to witness our boss’s angry puppet head smashing through a window toward him. It was a bad omen. The experience scared both of us back inside for the rest of the winter. Unable to smoke freely, I switched to edibles, and that’s how the Great Weed Cookie War of 2013 began.
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