Yesterday I stopped at a housing development fruit stand where everything is priced like it's fallen off a truck. I saw the groundskeeper there; a big bearded bearish perpetually baked dreadlocked man with a flutey Haitian accent who always smiles a lot and calls me sweetheart but doesn't look at my tits (or my ass – I've checked). Generally I can hardly understand a fucking word he says. But this morning as I bought some grapes and we exchanged pleasantries he said something about weed, indicating (I think) that I'd been smoking it. If that’s what he said, it was percipient. Sometimes the only thing that lets one endure chemical rage and sticky electrical heat-induced insomnia is getting so snaked mortality comes into sharp focus and Da Ali G Show becomes the most disturbing social commentary since A Modest Proposal.
When I asked the groundskeeper if it was so obvious he broke into gales of laughter and said – I'm sure this was what he said – one smoker can always recognize another. The red-eyed Persian men who were selling me the grapes laughed and agreed, and I laughed too because it was rather lovely.* As I continued my bike ride to work, I thought about the edges of the earth we'd come from; looking as different as four able-bodied people can, with a healthy lingual and religious spread, all having this habit and a brief complicity because of it.
At lunchtime I went to the Lebanese store for some halva, which is a sort of hard tahini sweet I’ve become addicted to. When I saw it I think I actually did a Homer-Simpson-twiddle – you know, when he holds up his hands, goes “Oo-oo-oo-oooooo!” and wiggles all his fingers at once. Anyways, one of the ladies stocking the shelves came over, and told me the fresh chocolate halva had just come in, and would I care to wait? I believe I giggled. So did she, rhapsodizing about how good it smelt while she was cutting it, and then the girl at the counter was all like “so THAT’S why you were giggling, I never buy this anymore, I eat it all in five minutes,” which I nearly did, but didn’t because like Britney Spears I’m stronger.
In an increasingly agonistic world where we're educated into thousands of small automatic hates and where we’re not trained to look for complicity unless it’s about trying to fuck each other or comparing brand names, I wish we wouldn’t close our eyes to the people who like smoking, eating, or doing the same shit we do and to letting that little flash of fellow feeling pass. I'm not saying it's going to save the planet, but it might. So many places to look for complicity – to uncover common ground, to find an occasional ally in the most unexpected places, to suddenly appreciate the human qualities of a complete stranger.
*If you've got no idea how to recognize someone else who smokes reefer: no matter what their age, colour, or gender, they will look sort of remind you of this.