A day after my eighteenth birthday, my friends and I decided to go to a coffee shop in Amsterdam. The faint smell of dank lingered on the cobbled street as the sun set over the Old Town. I arrived nervous, but excited. The bouncer even wished me, “Happy birthday for yesterday!” at the door, but I could read the subtext, “You’re too young to be in here, turn around and go away before you ruin our cool vibes.”
I walked in. The shabby decor contrasted sharply with neon figurines of alien heads and fluorescent bongs mounted all over the walls. The frat boys on their Eurotrip argued about how much better Cali weed is. A group of long-haired old timers spoke animatedly about a demonetized economy and the need for free love. “That Sound You Need: 3hr Summer Chillstep Playlist 2013” plays in the background. This wasn’t my scene.
Defiant, I marched up to the counter. There was a list of the weed they sold in the shop, in order of potency: Sour Cheese, OG Yoda Kush, King Hassan Gold Blend. Right next to it, an expansive selection of junk food: chocolate, chips, soda and more. My friends suggested we choose the weakest one, but I rebutted with the most popular argument used circa 2013 — YOLO.
“We’ll take the Super Silver Haze and we’ll take two pre-rolled joints,” I said. The guy behind the counter looked us up and down, but said nothing. We moved up the stairs, the three of us staring at the joints, not quite sure how to proceed. My friend lit the joint and immediately started coughing — we were off to a great start. I wanted to try it, but how do I ask? I heard the words, “Let me hit that!” coming out of my mouth. Did I just say that? Do people actually say that? I must have looked like a fucking idiot. I decided to save face and head to the bathroom to regroup.
The “Whitey” is a subtle, yet cruel mistress. First, it’s the sinking feeling in your stomach. Then it’s the paranoia: “I swear to God they all know how fucked I am … they’re all laughing at me. … Is that my mum over there? … Mum? … Mummy? … I need to escape this place.” I told myself to act cool as I sauntered back to my friends, but the panic took over as the sweat beads started forming. “Guys I’m way too fucking high right now, I want to go home immediately.” My friends looked at me through their snakey, blood-shot eyes. Bemused, but concerned. Looking like the cast of a Judd Apatow film, we sheepishly made for the door.
I thought my “act cool” mantra had worked as I strolled out of the shop, but obviously not because the manager strided after me into the street with a chair, the glass facade of the coffee shop doing little to preserve any dignity I had left. The manager sat me in the chair on the street and gave me a block of Lucozade tablets. He told me to eat them and I should be fine in 10 minutes. I started crying, I never thought my heart would relax. On top of my tears, I then began to laugh because this situation was too funny not to appreciate (and I was also fucking high). I then started to panic because I couldn’t breathe from my uncontrollable laughter and tears. This cycle lasted for 15 minutes until the bouncer came outside. He gave me some water and told me I should be fine in another 10 minutes.
Forty-five minutes later, I had finally calmed down enough to go back to the hostel. All I wanted to do was call my mother, but, thank god, my friends put me to bed instead.
My experience with weed has never resulted in anything positive apart from a good story. I have since tried to smoke, but every time the placebo of that night in Amsterdam comes back, I start feeling anxious. Maybe I will try again one day, but for this 4/20 the only thing I’ll be high on is life.