There hasn't been much posted here lately. That's a shame.
Some people are performers. Their entire life is one big performance and the entire world is their stage. Some people know how to make it seem as if time is standing still. Sometimes that is good. Other times it is not.
Take, for example, the guy I ran into while waiting to get a cup of coffee early last Saturday morning in O'Hare Terminal 3. For reasons that will become immediately clear, let's call him Dr. Feelgood.
I had just joined the line when Dr. Feelgood came up behind me and remarked "ahh, the last legal drug in the United States." Since I was the only person in the immediate vicinity, I could only assume that he was talking to me. Looking back now, I realize that I failed to recognize that this was not just a random replacement for "Hey there, good morning." Had I recognized it for what it was, I would have ignored him or pretended that I was on the phone.
However, since it is my default nature to be kind and polite to strangers (I generally save my rudeness and hostility for loved ones) I glanced up from my Blackberry, smiled, and replied "Well, one of them at least." His eyes lit up as he realized I had taken the bait.
He launched immediately into his shtick. "Alcohol, you know, kills 40,000 people a year - just on overdoses alone." I looked at him and at the line in front of me and quickly performed a life cost/benefit analysis. There were only a handful of people in front of me. If I sucked it up and engaged him, I'd only have to endure it for 5 minutes or so. Even less if the line moved quickly and I ordered something simple. If I ignored him, he'd probably keep talking anyway or say something even more provocative and troll-ish. I quickly decided that if I gave him a bit of my attention, his need for an audience would be satisfied and I'd spare some other poor soul the pain of having to listen to his bull. That counts as good karma, right?
"That many?" I asked
"Oh absolutely! Of course, that doesn't include ancillary deaths like from drunk driving and other accidents - that's just OD's alone," He opined.
I wasn't fully prepared for where he was going, though I probably should have been had I taken the time to carefully examine and evaluate his appearance. He was a healthy looking man with short, thinning, wavy blonde hair. His face was full and had a stubbly beard. He was large, but not "fat". He had the build of a man that used to work out regularly, taking pride in his physique, but had given it up for one reason or another in the not too distant past. He was dressed in a pair of long shorts, and a t-shirt promoting some brand of surfer gear. The outfit was completed with a pair of leather sandals. His luggage consisted of a single slightly overstuffed duffel bag. Basically, just this side of a modern day hippie.
"Yeah - it would be a lot more if you counted the drunk driving deaths" I offered.
With the taste of blood fresh in his mouth, he launched into his act in earnest. He started with a rant on prescription anti-depressants. Zoloft, apparently, had killed his brother. Maybe it was Prozac. I don't remember specifically. He said that his brother was depressed while living in Alaska, took a pill, went outside, fell asleep in the snow, and died.
Because I was still unaware of the real point of his discourse – I naively asked "He died of exposure?" only very slightly emphasizing the last word.
"Yeah, but it was the pill that killed him!" he declared. "That **** ought to be illegal."
I pondered the illogic of his conclusion briefly and wondered what one says to a guy that is willing to tell you about the tragic, if slightly improbable, death of his brother, blames it on a pill, and concludes that all such drugs ought to be illegal.
"Wow. I'm sorry to hear that." I said.
"Yep. If your feeling depressed, they give you a pill, you fall asleep somewhere, and then you die"
At this point I was slightly concerned that I had run into a scientologist and he was going to tell me how psychiatrists were the worlds greatest evil, polluting our bodies with poison and ignoring the body thetans clinging to our souls. That might have been an interesting conversation. Unfortunately, I got this:
"Nope. Instead of doing something reasonable, organic and natural – they give you a pill. Or you drink until you OD and die."
I knew what he was going to say next before the words even left his mouth.
"All you gotta do, man, is smoke some weed. You don't need any stupid pills to mellow out. Yeah, the only proven anti-depressant is marijuana and the government makes it illegal. You ever hear of anyone ODing on pot?"
Oh for the love of God, why me?
I shook my head. He continued. He extolled the virtues of smoking weed and cursed the perils of everything else. He complained of the draconian laws that suppress the one true wonder drug. Even the liberal laws in California (where, according to all reports I've heard & read, you can't swing a dead cat without knocking over someone offering a medicinal marijuana prescription) don't go far enough. He circled back to his brother and the inherently unfair laws in Alaska that allow one to own a few ounces for personal use but ban the sale & distribution.
I made my final mistake in this encounter when I asked "If you can't sell it, then how does one come into possession of it?"
Dr. Feelgood didn't miss a beat "You grow your own, man! All you need is some soil, a few seeds, water, and sunlight! That's just the thing - no nasty chemicals, no drugs, nothing! It's all natural!"
The next two minutes seemed to drag on forever.
Now, before I conclude the story, I should probably make one thing clear: I don't care about the issue of marijuana legalization. Not even a whit. I've heard it a million times before and I'm bored with it. Yes. US drug policy is a mish-mash of illogic and insanity run by half-wits and lawyers. Beyond that? I.don't.want.to.discuss.it. Especially at 6AM on a Saturday morning in O'Hare, after traveling for three days straight. At that time and place, the last thing on earth that I need is a lecture or debate on the morality or immorality of US drug policy and the wonderful benefits of smoking weed.
By the time I made it to the head of the line, I was wishing desperately that I had thought to pretend to get a phone call when he first walked up. Inwardly, I retreated to the place in my mind where I go when the real world makes me want to take a flamethrower to anything and everything. It's nice there; there's good music playing softly, and the world is filled with beautiful women (all dressed tastefully in bikinis, of course) that think I'm the most handsome, clever, and wonderful man on the planet. No one is smoking anything and I can sit quietly and watch as other wonderful, friendly people quietly drink their coffee and smile. There is no place here for the kind of people who don't know how to make small talk and polite conversation, or how to save their opinions for people who care.
I was summoned away from my reverie by a barista. I ordered an espresso brownie and a grande non-fat white chocolate mocha. She walked away to complete the previous order, then came back and repeated my selections to me.
"Cranberry muffin and a venti carmel macchiato?"
My eyes widened slightly and Dr. Feelgood laughed quietly. I repeated my order. The barista attempted to ring it up a few times before settling on a price that slightly resembled the actual cost of what I had asked for. I handed her my money and tried to picture myself on a beach. That was a mistake. Dr. Feelgood was standing there with a pipe in one hand and a brick of weed in the other. Dammit.
It was a long performance. Dr. Feelgood probably enjoyed it. I've seen better.