Damn Near Everyone Tries to Sell Me Drugs
It’s not surprising, really
Time To Read: 7 mins | December 1, 2016
You have to realize, Belize City is not the nicest place.
Like anywhere, there are lovely parts and good restaurants and friendly people to be found, but if you weighed the pleasant neighborhoods against the roads that made you lock your doors, you’d end up desperately wanting.
Which is why the fancy-smelling lady startled me. She pulled next to me in a clean Range Rover, was wearing pressed designer clothing, and smelled of perfume you can’t find at Macy’s.
She leaned her head out the car window and asked, “Do you know where the international yoga festival is?”
I immediately understood her deduction; strangers have been making it for years. If you’re a fit-looking boy with long hair and an aversion to shaving, passerbys assume you’re a yogi. So when I answered, “No, sorry,” the woman was considerably confused.
“You mean you don’t do yoga?”
“Absolutely not. Good day.”
Fact of the matter, however, is that the bendy-fitness-guru assumption is the most innocent stereotype I’m bombarded with.
More often than not, especially when travelling, I’m profiled for a surefire drug customer.
Fast forward less than a day, walking down the exact same street, and a street vendor called out to me and a lady friend.“You two need any help?,” he shouted from behind a table full of trinkets.
It’s a rookie mistake to engage in this situation, but we were looking for a grocery story and didn’t know the area, so I responded (and immediately regretted) that yes, we could use some assistance.
Homeboy shot up and immediately put an arm on my shoulder. My friend was distracted by a separate salesman’s weavings, so we had plenty of space. I remember thinking he didn’t need to put his eight teeth nearly that close to my ear.
“I got the best fucking ganja, man.”
Long-haired white guy walking down a back road in a shady tourist town. Really, nothing about this thinly veiled proposition was surprising. And because this wasn’t my first time being offered illicits – hell, not even my first time that day – I’d long ago learned a strategy for quickly dismissing the would-be salesman.
“I can’t, man,” I recited with a practiced buddy-buddy tone. “My girl doesn’t like it. I’ll get in trouble.”
The truth is, I hate weed. I fully support legalization and have dozens of friends who partake, but marijuana, regardless of strain, turns me into a paranoid vegetable. I can drink most middle-aged Irishman under the table, but one hit of a joint and I’m in the fetal position for a half day, arms wrapped around my legs and rocking like I just witnessed a double homicide. I’m not proud of it, and wish I had, shit, any degree of tolerance for the stuff. But I can’t handle it, so I don’t do it.
My gappy-toothed would-be best friend was disappointed, but didn’t press the issue. You see, if you explain that weed makes you ill or that you simply don’t like smoking, you’ll be pestered for another three minutes about how “my stuff won’t make you sick,” and “but you haven’t tried this shit before, bruh.” Blame your denial on a third party, however, and the dealer shuts down instantly.
In a much less enthusiastic tone, he asked what we were looking for, and to his credit he readily provided accurate directions to a nearby market. We thanked him and left.
It didn’t occur to me until later that my friend had no idea what this guy had tried to sell me, which, in hindsight, makes the next scene much more understandable.
15 minutes later, after picking up tortillas and refried beans and other staples of Central American diets, we were passing the same man’s corner. And even given my rejection, the man approached us once again. This time, though, he wasn’t talking to me.
“My dear, my dear, check out my jewelry, please?” He was a completely different human – his tone had softened, his body language had gone from ‘street’ to ‘sheltered’, and there was no mention of either fucking or ganja.
My friend followed him. She’d later explain it was because he’d been so helpful with the directions. And truth be told, I’m glad she entertained his offer, because it was a hell of a thing to hear:
“So, just so you know, mam,” – my dealer suddenly was speaking like a humble shoe shine – “all the proceeds from my sales go to our local marching band.”
I still have a cut on my chin, that’s how hard my jaw hit the floor.
And he wasn’t done yet. “It’s the youth group I work with during nights, down at our local church. We came in second last year, but obviously we want to win this year,” he added a little ‘amiright’ laugh right then, “So, truly, anything helps.”
What the fucking what.
My friend looked at me with Bambi eyes, her heart swelling at the con man’s tale. I was too dumbfounded to speak, but the smooth talking son of a bitch gave me a quick look of subtle pleading, like those Salvation Army Santa Clauses with the bells every Christmas outside Target. And, just to reiterate the point, this man had not half an hour ago claimed to have the best weed in history.
She didn’t buy anything. Not because she suspected a ruse or we compared notes or anything like that, the ‘jewelry’ was simply crap you could pick up off any street vendor in the country. Only on the walk back did I lose my composure and explain the hilarious metamorphosis that we’d just witnessed.
There’s probably a lesson here. Something about not being caught a sucker by street vendors, or understanding that your appearance does actually matter, especially when traveling or meeting strangers. But no matter how often I’m offered unwanted drugs or confused for a hippy yoga instructor, I’m not cutting my hair off. Sorry Dad.
photo: i misheard someone describe this as a ‘whiskey tree’, as opposed to a ‘whispy tree’. i like my version better. taken from a howler monkey preserve outside belize city