Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fun With Pizza (Part 7: Random Chunks)


Any of the "Random Chunks" entries will break from my usual narrative, which would have an overarching subject or theme.  These really are just.... Random chunks, small anecdotes from the job that were funny/strange/sad/odd enough to warrant writing down, but too small for their own entry.  Just thought I'd explain.

Prom Night For Pissmont Brats

A brief break from bitching about college students, so that I might bitch about high school students.... Or at least they would be for a couple more weeks.

Piedmont is a strange island of extreme prosperity, and I'm talkin' $5 million homes, surrounded on all sides by Oakland.  The City of Piedmont hates this.  Oakland could care less: the homes on the Oakland side of the line are just as ritzy, and you can't really tell you're in Piedmont just by looking around.... Unless you're non-white, specifically Latino or Asian, in which case you'll get to meet the local gendarmes.  (There's just too many hyper-rich black families in Piedmont for the pigs to use their usual litmus: the Pissmont cops harassing a black guy who turns out to own a $6.2 million home in Pissmont for Driving While Black really wouldn't fly: quite simply, the black dude could buy and sell their asses.  He's certainly in a position where the city would rather just fire the cops than expend the energy and resources --- of which the black guy has both --- fighting with an enraged taxpayer.)

I don't know where Piedmont H.S. has their prom, but afterwards, the big hotel at the Berkeley Marina (currently a Doubletree, it's also been a Radisson and something else) would fill up with H.S. seniors.... And quite a bit of parent-supplied booze.  Specifically, booze supplied by the ex-jock alcoholic fathers of some seniors: the sort of Romney-voting noisy jackass golf-playing fuckhead assholes who use the phrase "Boys will be boys!" with a smile while explaining away whatever crime their spawn had committed.  As near as I could tell, the PHS parents had arranged, months in advance probably, for the little darlings to have a whole floor of an entire wing of the hotel.  The hotel certainly would prefer it that way, to keep the other hotel guests happy.

We'd been getting orders from that wing and floor all night; I expected mine to be no different: a quick transaction and a shit tip.  So I'm walking down the hall, bag in hand.  Go past a room with the door open, say H'llo to the occupants.

I'm about forty feet past their door when I hear footsteps running up behind me.  Intuition told me to get a vice grip on the bag.

He'd have had better luck if he wasn't still wearing his dress shoes.  If he'd been barefoot he might have got me.  Sure enough, some little pud tries to pull the bag out of my hand.... But I had too tight a grip.  I spun towards him, he's still trying to yank the bag away from me, so I gave him a good knuckle-shot in the adam's apple.
If you've never had it happen to you, an adam's apple punch --- especially a knuckle punch --- makes you feel like you're choking to death for five to fifteen minutes, depending on the severity of the blow.  I didn't want to send him to the hospital (it's amazing how much of my time at that job involved just trying to be left the fuck alone) so I gauged it hard enough to make him miserable for a little while.  He gave up on the pizza bag and stood there in the hallway, holding his throat, and coughing and gasping.

His buddies, who'd been watching from around the edge of the doorway, come jogging up.  I didn't put the pizza down.  I yelled at them, "Right, who's next?"  I pushed the wheezing one in the chest and loudly told him, "Try to steal from me, motherfucker?  I shoulda taken one of your eyes out!"
"You fuckin' hurt our friend!" says one of them.
"Yeah, your fuckin' friend tried to steal from me!  What did he expect, a big wet sloppy kiss?"
"You motherfucker!"
I started moving, very slowly, towards them.  "Uh huh.  'S right.  And tell your mom not to bite so hard when I come next time."  I looked at them and said, "Fucking either throw down or get him inside and be inside with him.  I don't feel like playing you spoiled little brats, I gotta pizza to deliver."
Their friend was doing better, but was still gasping and had a shocked and pain-filled look on his face.  He and his two friends started back towards their room, glancing back at me with childish petulant faces.
A girl's face appeared at the door.  "You guys!  What the hell are you doing?"
"Um, we just--- "
"You're gonna get us thrown out of here, you idiots!  Get back in the room!"
"Yeah, sorry Monica."
"And what the hell is wrong with Corey?"
I didn't stick around for the explanation.  I had to deliver a pizza.  Again, instinct told me: get their room number, it may be important.  Room 418.  Okay.

Walking back with the empty bag over my shoulder, I glanced in the room as I went by.  I could see all four of them lounging on the beds watching TV.  I received a couple sour expressions as I went past, but was otherwise ignored.
I turned the corner and started heading for the elevator.... And I hear footsteps running up behind me.  I turned, ready to bulldog anything coming around the corner....
.... Which turned out to be the girl from their room.  She trotted up to me, "Umm... Mister pizza guy!  Pizza guy!"
"Help you?"
"Look, I'm really sorry about what happened.  I'm totally sorry they did that to you.  Really, they're nice guys, they've just been drinking.  Here."  She grabbed my hand and pushed a bill into it, which I would discover a few minutes later to be a twenty.  "That's for having to put up with their bullshit.  I promise they won't bother you again."
I put the bill in my jacket pocket without looking at it.  "Good to hear.  We've been doing deliveries to this floor all night, doing good business.  It'd suck for that to end 'cos of three dummies."
She smiled and looked relieved.  "Yeah.  Don't worry, I promise I'll keep them corralled for the rest of the night."
She looked at the floor, then sort of gazed down the hall.  She stepped closer to me and asked, "Um.... Can you get a hold of any crystal?"
WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP! Danger Will Robinson!
"Ahh.... Well, gosh, I might have been able to help you several hours ago, but, you know, me being at work and all, plus the couple people I know don't like to do business after ten...."
"Oh.  Dammit!"
"You don't got nobody you can call?"
"I've got a couple, but one doesn't have a car right now, and the other isn't calling me back!"
"Well.... Sorry I can't help you, good luck, G'night."
Yeah, rounding up a Dangerous Drug for a rich teenage girl I'd never met.  Yep, that's a good idea.  After I'm done with that, I need to decide which limb to insert in the cardboard compressor at the Val-U-Mart.

I arrived back at the store and was greeted by James, who immediately asked me, "You just getting back from the Marriott?"
I confirmed this.
"Any trouble?"
"A little.  Nothing I couldn't handle.  Why?"
"We're blackballing the floor.  Some jackass tried to snatch Vijay's bag a little while ago."
"Huh.  Room 418, by any chance?"
James started, and said, "Yeah.  How'd you know?  They try the same shit on you?"
"Yeah.  But they didn't get mine, and they won't be pulling any more shit.  Go ahead and open them back up."
James gawked at me a moment, then pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration.  "Lenny.... What the hell did you do?"
"Some stupid kids tried to snatch my order, bag and all, and I prevented it."
Glaring at me sideways, James said, "And that's all, huh?"
"Well.... That's the gist of it.  The girl with them --- who seemed sober --- promised she would keep them in the room and out of trouble for the night.  Blackball 418, but not the whole floor.  C'mon, by my calculations, every order has averaged around $22.  And like I said, this girl and I remedied the situation.  Those three idiots are probably passed out by now, they were plastered to the hairline when I saw them."
James leaned in close and muttered in my ear, "And at any point did you punch some kid in the throat?"
I stared for a couple seconds, then looked away and shrugged.
"Because I got a call from some drunk fool in Piedmont, complaining how one of our drivers punched his son for no reason."
I laughed, loudly.  "Uh huh.  I'm guessing the son left out the part where he tried to steal three pizzas from the driver, in a method known as 'strongarm robbery,' and the driver happened to be better at defending himself than his son was at being a thief.  Give me the idiot's number, I'll take care of it."
"Think about it, James, it is 100% my responsibility.  I'm not an employee, I'm a contractor, just like all the other drivers.  If a customer --- or their dad --- has a problem with a driver, it should be up to the driver to handle the situation, keeping the company's best interests in mind while doing so.  Trust me, I can handle this in a professional manner.  And worst comes to worst, we lose a customer that was never ours to begin with.  For chrissakes, they're in Pissmo---- sorry, force of habit."

So the next day I called the number provided and spoke with Mr. Krahulik, Corey's father.

The lies ran fast and deep.  To ask Corey's view, he'd been making sure the Gideon Bibles were distributed evenly among the rooms when some weirdo-looking nut, certainly on drugs, simply walked up to young Corey and punched him in the throat for no reason.  Certainly he'd have to give up his place in the church choir.
And oh, was Mr. Krahulik mad.  The list of people he was going to sue was long, and expanding.  He was going to sue me, Lefty's Pizza, the hotel, the security contractors for the hotel, Honda America (the builders of my car), and Monsanto Corporation, who provided the seeds to grow the wheat that was turned into flour that became pizza dough which became the pizza I was delivering when I ruthlessly assaulted his dear innocent son.

I waited until he ran out of air.  With types like Krahulik, there's no point in trying to interject or debate: just keep mental notes, wait until they throw "And what do you have to say for yourself?" at you.... And dismantle everything they've said.
In my case, I told him, "Mr. Krahulik, if you actually went through with this, you would have a lot of trouble and embarrassment.  What did Corey say about the pizzas?"
"What pizzas?"
"The pizzas that were in my delivery bag, three of them, that Corey tried snatch from me.  That's why I punched him, to stop him from stealing from me.  Did you really believe I just decided to punch him at random?"
"My son told me you looked like some Berkeley weirdo that had wandered in.  And he's no thief!"
I chuckled.  "Well, by Piedmont standards, I suppose I would stand out.  And as far as your son being a thief goes, well.... Technically he isn't.  Thieves gain possession of what they try to steal, and your son did not.  However, there is no disputing that he, and two of his friends, in room 418 of the Berkeley Marriott, attempted to steal three pizzas and the bag they were in from me last night, and I punched your son to prevent him from doing so.
"Really, it's the loss of the bag that would have hurt.  It's my own bag, and it set me back $110.  I keep a close eye on it."
Krahulik scoffed.  "You deliver pizza, and you went out and spent that kind of money on your own bag?"
"Absolutely.  It's much higher quality than the plastic and foam ones most stores use.  It's made of breathable material, so condensation is greatly reduced.  Mr. Krahulik,  would you not agree that any job, no matter what it is or how low it's station, should be approached with the highest level of professionalism?"
Krahulik paused a couple moments, not used to this line of reasoning from some dumb pizza guy.  ".... Yeah."
"Exactly.  Your son and his friends, not recognizing the bag for what it is, would have thrown it in the hotel dumpster the next morning."
I noticed he'd stopped trying to debate about whether or not his son was a thief.
"Also, your son and his friends attempted the same thing with another driver, who, if it came down to it, would surely identify your son as one of the three who tried to steal his order.  He even noted the same room number, 418.  He had also noticed, as I did, your son and his friends had been drinking heavily.  I'm curious as to where they obtained the liquor."
Krahulik was grasping now.  "Yeah.... Well, my son says you were on drugs!"
I laughed.  "Really!  If you can, explain the premise underlying that conclusion."  (I'd noticed that $20 words and sentences seemed to flummox the man.)
"Well.... Hell, I don't know, that's just what he told me."
"I don't wish to accuse your son of falsehoods, but he is incorrect.  However, there is no question that your underage son and his friends were drunk.  Alcohol does impair decision-making faculties, which would explain his decision to try and steal from me.  And it still begs the question, where did he get the liquor?"
This question was bugging him, and I knew exactly why: the asshole had bought the booze for his son etc. himself.  Boys Will Be Boys.  And the nearest liquor store was over a mile away, a hell of a walk to go spot for liquor.
Krahulik gave another pause, then in a moderated tone (a rarity for him) said, "You know, I think I need to have a talk with my boy, see if we can get this ironed out.  But still, you punched him in the throat!"
I told him, "A calculated move.  A sharp jab with the knuckles to the cartilage surrounding the larynx, known as the Adam's apple.  Since I had no interest in fighting your son but simply getting him to let go of the bag and out of my way, I gave him a good jab.  It causes great discomfort for about ten minutes, you feel as if you're choking to death, which was the idea.  I had no interest in boxing your son, I wanted him immobilized and, as I said, out of my way.  He may feel a bit of bruising for a few days, but is otherwise perfectly healthy."
"Jesus.  Sounds like a real bastard move."
"It is, absolutely.  I've resided in neighborhoods where the only sane stratagem is to simply immobilize or injure an attacker, and be on your way.  West Oakland, Richmond, the Tenderloin, South Modesto, Sherman Heights in San Diego.... To try and re-enact the behaviors of a cowboy hero in an old Western is to invite severe injury.  Experience has taught me to dispose of attackers as quickly as possible, and leave the area.  Quickly, if possible.  Shall I explain the advantages of sharpening down car keys to a more blade-like edge?"
"No!  No, thanks though, I can get that."
"Very well, sir.  You have that talk with your son; I'm afraid he has.... miscommunicated with you.  If you have any questions, call back at this number.  Don't worry if I do not respond for a day or so.  The two jobs I have often means I arrive home from work at 2 a.m. and leave the house at 8 a.m.  Leave a message, it will be returned.  Thank you for your time."
"Uh, yeah....  No problem."

I kept Krahulik's number thumb-tacked up at my desk for two weeks.  He never called me or James, so I finally threw it away.

Personal Livestock

A residential delivery in North Berkeley, one of the many nice quiet neighborhoods up there.  A strange cultural mix: any house hitting the market would be no less than $450K, and even that would rate as a "fixer-upper" or "handyman's special!" (i.e. it leaks like a sieve and half the fucking floor is gone).  But as I said, a decent neighborhood populated by a mix of yuppies and older hippies; the hippies had bought in the early 1970s when the homes were still cheap, and had stayed.  The yuppies bought later, valuing the ease of egress to I-80 and the proximity to the restaurants in Albany and the north Shattuck area.  Spotting houses hippies lived in took nanoseconds: the wildly-painted garage doors, the old SAABs in the driveway, and the semi-completed gardening projects were your tip-off.

It was to one of these houses I was delivering to.  Knock on the door, hear "One moment!", and the door is opened by an older hippie lady.  Forty-five to fifty years old, good looking; without the dreadlocks and with the right clothes she'd have looked elegant.  And, as evidenced by the white blouse she was wearing, well-stacked and no bra.
"Oh, my pizza!  Wonderful!"  She put down her glass of wine.  "A busy evening tonight?"
"Nah, not too bad.  It's midweek, so the students aren't whooping it up."
She smiled, "Yes, I suppose much of your business does come from the school.  I imagine weekends can be very busy for you, no time to breathe!"
I gave her the pizza, she paid me off with a fair tip, and we stood there talking for a minute or two.  Hey, it really is a slow night, this lady seemed a little lonely, why not chat for a few?  Good PR: "Lefty's drivers are so friendly!"

She looked up at my head and asked, "May I touch your hair?"
As it had been for years, it was bleached copier-paper white and spiked up.  "Uhh, sure, if you  want to.  I've got some product in it."  She ran her hand gently over my head, saying how "wild and beautiful" it was.  "I love your boots, too.  The bikers wore those, when I was younger."
She eyed me gently and asked, "Would you like to come inside for a little while?"  Her implication was unmistakable; her hand slid down my neck, down my arm, and settled at my hip. Oh boy.
Okay, at the time, I was still a few years away from getting married, and wasn't dating anyone.  From a pragmatic point of view, she had bad timing --- c'mon lady, I'm still at work, me disappearing for an hour while I schtup a customer would be trouble --- but also, my sixth sense was saying, "There's something wrong here and you'll be sorry."  I wasn't worried about getting robbed, it was just.... A hunch that this would leave me worse off.
I told her, "Wow, you know, I'd love to, but I've still got two more orders in my car [a blatant lie, I was empty] and it wouldn't be fair to them if I was.... Socializing, and letting their pizzas get cold."
She pouted slightly, then recovered and said, "Yes, that wouldn't be right.  What time are you off work?  You could stop by then."  The hand remained firmly attached to my hip.
"Hmm, I don't get off work till after one, pretty late."
"Why don't you drive by when you get off work?  If my lights are on, please stop.  Or--- " she'd had a brain wave " --- you could come by here before work tomorrow, either one.  I've been feeling a bit lonely [there's a good euphemism, lady] and need the sound of a man's voice.... And a man's touch....  I think we could have a lot of fun together, just the two of us.... Alone...."
Yeah, I was getting turned on.  Fuckin' DUH, man.  But I still had a little voice saying, "Dude!  Bail out!  No way!  Danger!"
So I gently held the back of her head and kissed her on the forehead.  To leave her unencumbered would have resulted in her tongue down my throat, I was sure of that.  I told her, "I'll see what I can do," squeezed her hand, and went back to my car.  As I drove off I looked over to her front door.  She was still standing there.... With a hand inside her blouse, cupping the left one.

I didn't go back: I've had listening to my instincts save my ass too many times for me to ignore them in favor of some nookie that was twenty years older than me, even if she did seem like a nice person.  I thought about it --- Dude, with age comes experience, she may be older but she's got a hot body on her, hippie chicks like to swallow --- but I stayed away.

One of the Brazilian drivers didn't.  About a week later he was bragging about hooking up with "this hot older hippie chick on the north side" and how they'd ridden each other like carousels until dawn.  Yes, he'd scored big time, he'd lived out the scenario from a thousand porno movies.

But not quite.  See, in the porno movies?  Nobody contracts crabs.  Our Brazilian stud-meister did, and was miserable.... Plus he was banned from the store --- no work --- until he got rid of the crabs.  He only knew of bad old remedies, like scalding hot water or kerosene.  I finally dragged his ass to Walgreens, took him down the right aisle, pointed at a row of bottles, and said, "That shit.  Buy some of that and use it."

His lesson learned?  If it's that easy to get, there's probably something wrong with it.

Drugs are bad, mmkay?

Avoiding marijuana in California is like avoiding sunshine here: you may not see it for a few days, but it's still around.  Even if you're not in the mood for it, or the people who seem obsessed by it.

Here's a little scenario I had to contend with about once a week, on average.  Get a tag going to a room at a frat or a co-op: okay, no problem.  Get up to the room and knock on the door.  The door opens, and it's like wandering into a Jamaican sauna: a cloud of weed-smoke billows out; people for blocks suddenly have an urge to listen to the Allman Brothers and eat Doritos.
I give the order price to the Bongload Brothers, and they present me with a stack of mangled ones and enough loose change to make a good sap.  They then tell me what I knew I'd hear as soon as they opened the door:

"Dude, we don't have enough money for a tip.  Want a bong load?"

Oh, absolutely!  Because that will help me get the rest of the pizzas delivered that much faster, now won't it?  Yes, smoking a bong --- and this is California, even the mediocre stuff is pretty good --- will make me a much more efficient worker, not to mention improving my driving skills.

(Note: anyone who ever says to you, "I drive just fine when I smoke weed," what they really mean is, "I drive like shit no matter what condition I'm in."  I've spent plenty of time observing people who drive blunted, and --- while not actively dangerous like drunk drivers --- they're still incompetent at the wheel, hence a threat.  I'm no cop-caller, but if you're impaired while driving, yer fuckin' ay I'm gonna drop a dime to CHP on your dumb ass.  Call it a pet peeve of mine.)

The customers will be a mite ticked with me, as I'll be showing up at their doors telling them, "I ate a slice, I'm sorry.  It's reeeaally good though, this is the most incredible pizza ever made."  Not to mention the five minutes it takes me to count out their change.  Yes sirree bob, smoking weed with the customers is an absolutely brilliant idea.  Well, until James collars you and says, "Lemme smell your breath."  Among its other advantages, smoking weed with the customers will provide you with extra free time during the day, because you just got the sack.

Marijuana is a highly popular, almost completely harmless recreational drug which can be located in any California town with a population of three or more.  It has no short-term adverse side effects, and the long-term ones are due to the fact that, well, you're still inhaling smoke.  (And people who smoked very heavily for thirty years really do get to be a little.... Dim.  Slow.  Not firing on all cylinders.  But we're talking about the folks who smoked all day, every day, for decades.  That sort of behavior with anything will have ill effects.  And as a rule, they're easier to deal with than the people who drink like that.)  The quality keeps improving, so that two puffs will have the desired effect, making it easier on your lungs.  Both the medical dispensaries and plain ol' dope dealers keep their strains separate, as the strains have different effects: the days of "bud is bud, man" are gone --- old fogey that I am, marijuana still had seeds in it when I was young --- and that's a good thing.  Depending on your location, some local police won't even bother with confiscating it (within reason): they write you the summons, you show up in court and pay a $25 fine, and you're done with it.  The cops figured out even bothering to check an eighth into the evidence room isn't worth walking down the hall to do.
In short, recreational users of marijuana have the momentum on their side.  I don't smoke, but personally, more power to 'em.

And no, we still won't accept the crap as payment for your goddamn pizza!  I mean, what is wrong with you?  Trying to live the stereotype?  Do you walk into Walgreens for toothpaste and condoms and tell the cashier, "I've got this eighth of Sour Diesel I can give you"?  Do you try to shove joints in the ticket dispenser at a BART station?

No you fucking don't, you brain-dead prick.  So why did you assume the pizza guy was happy to operate on a barter system?  And --- curiouser and curiouser, Alice --- why the the presumption I'd have any interest in marijuana to begin with, hmmm?  Get that terrible stinking garbage away from me.  (Other people enjoy weed.  I don't.  It makes me feel miserable, so I don't smoke it.  Seems like a simple progression of thoughts and actions.)

The ones who wanted to barter would end up scraping together the cash.... But I once had to play this game at a co-op:
"$18.25, sir."
"Heeeyy, I can, like, double your money's worth.  I'll give you an eighth of [insert chi-chi strain name here] for the pizza."
I stared at him silently for about five seconds, then said, "No.  The order is $18.25."
"You sure?  I mean this is [chi-chi weed] here, you can't--- "
"I don't smoke weed.  I hate the crap."
"But you could always sell it...."
"(*sigh*)  Lemme get this straight.  I'm supposed to take the time and effort to sell that bag of weed just to recoup the money owed to me?  I'm supposed to do your job?  No. The order is $18.25, SIR."
At which point Stoney began to sweat, and I got my Yellin' Voice ready.  "Okay.... Um.... I just need to hit up a housemate for a loan---- "
"WHAAAT!?" I bellowed as he slid past me.  I followed him down the halls two feet off his back, hollering the entire time: "So you called up and ordered pizza knowing full well you didn't have any goddamn money on you, but you ordered just the same, because you thought you'd be able to trade marijuana for your food?  What is wrong with you?  I seriously wanna know, what the fuck is your problem?  Do you have a head injury?  Did you come here from the Ninth Century when bartering was still an acceptable way of doing business?  What halfwit thought process told you this was a good idea?"
.... And on and on like that, as he desperately pounded on doors, trying to find a fellow resident who was home.  He finally found one: "Dude, please, I need to borrow twenty bucks, it's, like, really important."
The other resident gawked at him, then me.  "Um, twenty?  What's going on?"
I answered for him.  "His brains fell out," I snarled.  (Having five inches and forty pounds on both of these guys didn't hurt.)
Stoney's fellow resident only knew that Something Was Up, and there was a large angry man accompanying Stoney.  "Uhh, yeah, sure, just a second."  And he was back momentarily with a twenty in hand.... Which he started to hand to Stoney, so I snatched it out of his hand and shoved in my pocket.  (If he wanted to argue over a $1.75 tip I'd have put him through a window.)  I then pulled the pizzas out of the bag and handed them to Stoney.
I then pointed a finger at Stoney (whose friend was still watching) and said, "You never --- ever --- try to pull that shit again.  Do you understand me?  Am I clear?"
Stoney assured me not to worry, it would never happen again, absolutely not, no worries, such a thing would never happen again anywhere on the planet, he'd see to it.
"Enjoy your meal, sir," I said, and stomped on down the stairs.

Hostile?  Violent?  Abusive.  Sure.  I'll schedule an hour next Tuesday to feel bad about how I treated that guy.
But think about how this prick behaved.  He said to himself, "Well, I don't have any money, but I sure could go for some pizza and cheese sticks.  Hey, all pizza drivers are scumbags, the driver will be stoked to get the weed instead of money!"  What an arrogant, presumptuous bonehead: all kinds of people deliver pizza, for a lot of people it's a good, well-paying part-time job.  In some places where the local police are underfunded and have short hours, guess what job the cops will pick up to fill that hole in their budget?
So El Prickerino is presuming that a pizza guy in Berkeley would be happy to get weed instead of money; he'll have something to smoke after work.  Wrong!  I don't like marijuana.  People that do, fine, dandy, wonderful.  I'm actually a bit jealous.  But the "high" from marijuana is just plain unpleasant for me: I don't like how it makes me feel, it's as simple as that.  Why assume everyone smokes, doofus?
So I don't smoke.  I can sell it, right?  Um, why the fuck should I be doing your work for you?  You should have gone and sold the goddamn bag yourself before you even ordered.  You're in a co-op, somebody would want it.

The irony is that I had spent time at that particular co-op in my off-time, having a blast.  They were known for throwing raging open parties with really cool local bands playing.  More weed-smoke in the air than I cared for, but I could smoke my cigarettes inside and nobody said a word to me....  Hell, there were ashtrays, so I put one and one together.  Generally, I really liked the place, both when they threw shindigs and as a delivery address: the rooms were numbered a little funny, but generally tags going there were fine.  Despite the major parties, the residents were serious students, and had brains in their heads.  The few other times people wanted to trade me weed for their order, I'd give them a flat "No" and they'd pay right up, no debating.  They made the offer, I refused, we moved on.

I was offered other drugs as barter (and even as tips) off and on.  Drug #1: LSD.  Okay, first of all, eeeeeeeeeek.  Second, without dosing myself (and I'd given up acid several years earlier) it could have been plain blotter paper for all I knew.  So thanks but no thanks.  I was also offered cocaine---- well, a bag with white powder in it.  Bleagh.  Never liked coke.  The high from powder cocaine isn't all that, and I would describe smoking rock as a religious experience: you feel like God for about twenty minutes, and like Hell for forty minutes after that.... Unless you keep smoking.  Rather insidious.  Snorting powder also made me want to puke as soon as it hit the back of my throat: the numbing sensation made me gag: the discomfort outweighed the high.

I had a couple clowns at an off-campus apartment try to pass off shitake mushrooms as psilocybin once.  They handed me the bag and I started laughing hysterically.  "Oh, man!  Either you're trying to rip me off, or someone ripped you off!"  I tossed the bag back at them.  "Those came from fuckin' Andronico's [a high-end regional grocery store]."
They got pouty and annoyed.  "Dude, we've been taking these!  They're, like, super strong, you only need one little chunk to get you off!"
"Uh huh.  So tell me, what kind of high is it?"
"Pretty wild, man.  You get a lot of sparkly shit in your vision, and your arms and legs feel kinda numb, and you feel a little disoriented.... Man, they really get you outta your head."
In other words, absolutely nothing like a 'shroom high.
"You know, I don't normally abuse my customers, but I'm gonna do it now: you guys are fuckin' idiots.  What you've been eating are shitake mushrooms that somebody bought at Safeway or Andronico's and sprayed with PCP.  You know, Angel Dust?  Psilocybin mushrooms don't even look like that: magic mushrooms have long stems with round, tall caps.  Have any of you ever taken 'shrooms in your life?"
One guy piped up, "Yeah, these!"
"No.  No, you still haven't taken psilocybin mushrooms, you've taken salad fixin's soaked with PCP.  Where the hell did you get those?  Who sold them to you?"
They sheepishly looked at each other.  One finally volunteered, "We uh, got 'em from a dude at People's Park.  He seemed cool, an old hippie type."
I told them, "There's three of you, one of him.  Give him his bag back and demand a refund.  Shit, the only drug you buy in People's Park is Klonipin, it's the only thing you can trust."
One guy asked, "What's Klonipin?"
"It's an anti-psychotic the Berkeley Public Health people give to the street crazies.  The crazies sell the Klonipin so they can buy booze."
"Well.... What's it do?"
"Mixed with alcohol, gets you fucked up.  Not high, not stoned, just plain fucked up.  Like, 'put your head through a sheet of plywood and not feel it' fucked up.  The gutter punks dig that combo.  That should tell you something.  Without alcohol, they're a good sleep aid from what I understand."
One guy was getting aggravated.  "Well, shit!  How the hell can we find real 'shrooms?"
"I don't know what to tell you, bub.  If for some strange reason I wanted them, I've got a couple people I could call.  They'd have 'em for me in about a week, and I'd be buying a one pound minimum.  And uh, nothing personal here, but I ain't about to run a quest for random dudes I don't know, that I delivered pizza to."  I thought about it.  "Honestly?  Make friends with people who live in the party-heavy co-ops.  I've seen everything from Whippets to Ecstasy to meth to heroin go through those places.  Somebody will have a friend who knows somebody who has real 'shrooms."  I shrugged.  "Sorry, that's all I can think of, kids.  Don't feel bad: I've been trying to find real mescaline for literally years, and still no dice.  At least you're looking for a drug that has an existing market."
They glanced around at each other again.  "So what should we do with.... These?" the guy in front said, holding up the bag.
"First, I highly recommend you stop eating the fucking things, like, now.  And I told you: find the guy who sold it to you, give it back to him and explain what you learned, and demand your money back."
"What if he's got friends?"
I gave kind of an evil smile.  "You bring bats, and one ball.  Anyone starts coming to his aid, go head-hunting.  Fuck them.  And if the asshole won't pay up, kneecap him."
"Kneecap him?"
"Yeah, with a bat.  Getting your kneecap shattered with a Louisville Slugger is a little life lesson that some people need to learn, especially people who try to make money by fucking other people over.  And it's not the amount of money, it's the principle of the thing.  I figure if you can get shot in West Oakland over $20, this asshole is getting off light being in a cast for a few months, y'know?"
This was not the sort of thing they were used to.  They were making low "Whooaaah" and "Duuuude" noises.  One finally spoke up.
"Umm.... What's the ball for?"
"Oh!  For the cops.  Three guys walking down the street with bats are getting pulled in.  Show 'em the ball, and who's to say the three of you aren't on the way to the field?"
They migrated back inside, the one guy holding the bag of "'shrooms" like it was a dead rat.  No idea if they went through with my suggested plan --- they probably decided to just write it off as a loss --- but I'd bet anything they began trying to cozy up to anyone in a select two or three co-ops.

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