Originally published in The Daily Hampshire Gazette 7/2/2018
Text: Can U grab milk, bread & a bag of Ancestral Skunk? Luv U.
OK, I think we thought we’d be hearing such things by now, but there have been, as they say in the glaciers, delays.
Fine. All I know is that on a snowy December morning in 2016, in the midst of digging out from under, we ducked into the garage and inhaled legal cannabis for the first time. It tasted no different than the hundreds of other sessions held in that same garage, but there was a first-timish tinge to it, a reason to propose toasts, and the hours of shoveling that followed seemed as magical as skiing, aided as they were, by the stinky stuff.
And as we squinted out our garage window at the pre-Christmas snowfall, I couldn’t help remarking, “The cat is out of the bag.”
But the garage is still part of the equation. Like millions from one end of this country to the other with their own garages, cellars, attics, tree houses or patches of woods out back, the use of the chronic has been kept away from prying eyes, or from weasels who would squeal on you to your boss or to the heads of the committees you served on and your oft-whispered and utterly disgraced name would appear in the Gazette’s police log, just as it was unceremoniously scraped off the door to your former office.
Yes there’s a stigma attached, fellow lepers, and it doesn’t go away because some law says so. Maybe it’ll ease some when all these pot shops finally open, and every boss in town is seen at the drive-up window, but still.
The main problem the fan of the flower has faced is blending in with the day-to-day frenzy of the workplace without revealing his secret identity as Mellow Yellow, the loon-high fellow.
Face it, there are two types of marijuana users in modern society: those who can toke all day and still look clear-eyed and natural, and those, like you and me, who take one little hit and become a Charlie Manson mug shot, eyes darting like caroming pucks. So, no, I end up being too self-conscious and itchy-twitchy to do much toking near or nearby the workplace.
But I recall this one spring day walking back to work after lunch when I heard a “pssst!” and a friend is motioning me into the trees. Never a good idea, responding to a “pssst” especially when a whiff of weed comes with it.
If you’ve ever been to an outdoor concert, you know what it smells like, but what it smells like during a Franti encore and what it smells like downtown in the middle of the day is an entirely different thing. Like wearing a thong to church.
I mean, the bike cops’ll be on us before we even get to talking politics. Then, as I stroke my chin in contemplation of actually joining the grinning leper in the trees, I realize that I haven’t shaved in days. Great, the cross-eyed Manson look coupled with three days growth of stubble — I go back to work like this they’ll be escorting me out and calling me a cab for my own protection.
But, alas, just-say-no died with Nancy Reagan.
Moments later, I am in the office parking lot, looking for my car. I need to make myself presentable, if possible, before entering the building, and I seem to remember this box on the floor full of wet wipes, the kind you might use while changing a baby’s diaper. I haven’t changed anyone’s diaper in quite some time, so I have no explanation for the wet wipes, except that my wife must have placed them there for contingencies that may arise, and here they are.
I frantically yank out one-two-three and scrub my hands right up to my elbows, then four-five-six-seven all over my face, eyes, ears and throat, all of it sounding like #2 sandpaper against the barbed-wire stubble of my cheeks and chin.
“Ahem,” I clear my throat and enter the building. If I don’t lift my slitful eyes, I tell myself, no one will notice the busy guy on his way to his desk with lots on his mind. But I can feel eyeballs on me as I pass, every head cocked quizzically, a jury of eyes and arched eyebrows, burning holes in my rumpled brown sport coat all the way to my desk way, way in the back.
I dump my backpack, turn on my computer, happen to look up and they’re still staring at me, as if I’m the boob who mistook the door for the Bible study for the one marked Know Your Naked Body. And to top it off, I suddenly have to pee, and the bathrooms are located way, way out front by the door. The eyes stick to my neck like office memos as the same head-down gauntlet is run.
I find a colleague at urinal 1, so I set up shop at #2, making the required polite conversation. My friend turns his head to see who’s saying hello, and his ears pin back, and he zips up fast. Oh Jesus, how bloodshot must I be? How sea-green my pallor, how fixed my cross-eyed gaze? Get the eff out fast and head for the car!
But there’s the sink, and there’s the mirror, and there’s the staggering image of an insipid middle-aged face covered forehead to Adam’s apple with little white dots. Wet wipes, ground down and splattered into a hundred little wet wipes, like a cichlid releasing her eggs.
Could this be the face of legal grass? Possibly. But bring it on … please! The way things are going, the rest of our rights will be rubble anyway, and this is the one we’ll be left with. And oh baby, are we gonna need it.
So yes, whether it be this July, or September, or 2023, I’ll raise a toast to all the pot shops in town, but I ain’t never leaving the garage again.
Bob Flaherty, of South Hadley, is a former reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and now morning host at radio station WHMP in Northampton. He is the author of “Puff” (HarperCollins) a coming-of-age novel about trying to score a bag of grass in the Blizzard of ‘78.