“I used to sell crack back in the day”

I was on E. Jefferson, waiting for a bus.  I had just been at Belle Isle, a massive island-park in the middle of the Detroit River.  The bus shelter, which was missing two panes of glass, was right across Jefferson from the bridge to Belle Isle.

Belle Isle Bridge

There was a conversation underway between two African American women when I arrived at the bus shelter.  There was also a white man with a moustache and a sad look on his face.

“It ain’t pure,” one of the women said.  She was wearing a jacket with the logo of Comerica Park, the new stadium where the Tigers have played since 2000.  “I used to sell crack back in the day–when it was pure–but now they put some kind of chemicals in it,” she continued.

“Yeah,” the woman sitting next to her said.  “That’s why it makes you act so crazy.”

This was novel, and I immediately decided that I needed to talk to the woman in the Comerica Park jacket.  Almost as soon as the above exchange concluded, though, the ex-crack dealer began a cell phone conversation.  She was two or three people ahead of me in line when the bus arrived.  When the bus took off from the stop, I found myself detained at the front of the bus when it took off because another woman, who was ahead of me in line but behind the woman in the Comerica Park jacket, took a second to find her bus pass in her purse.  After I paid the fare I sought out the woman in the Comerica Park jacket and took a seat across the aisle from her.

The white man with the moustache never got on the bus.  Maybe he was waiting for another one, or maybe the shelter was his home.

I laughed when I saw that my seat had a small packet of ketchup on it.  The fact that I had noticed the ketchup packet in time to avoid sitting on it was an occasion to compliment myself for my sharp wit–a pat on the back, as it were.

I leaned over a bit, tried to make eye contact with the woman from across the aisle.  I said, “Excuse me, but, um, did overhear you that used to sell crack?”

“Huh?” she said.  Squinting a little, her mouth open a hair, she looked at me with focused indifference–it was the kind of look you’d get from a toll collector if you tried to explain that you had already paid the toll earlier that day, you had had to double back because you’d left something at home, and now you should not have to pay the toll again because you had already paid the toll just an hour or so before.  And then if you showed the receipt to the toll collector, and said that you thought the turnpike allowed reentry.

I repeated, “Um, I thought I overheard you said, that, that you used to sell crack in the past.”

“Yeah,” she said.  “The bus goes to Rosa Parks Bus Transit Center.  You can get any bus from there, but this bus stops at the Transit Center.”

I realized that she thought that I was asking directions.  “Oh, I must have misunderstood you,” I said, “because I thought I overheard you say that you used to sell crack before.”

She smiled and shrugged.  “Yeah,” she said.

“I used to sell weed,” I said, “but the paranoia of it–just of that, of weed–made me go crazy!  And that was just weed, I mean, crack . . . that’s heavy.”

She shrugged again, giggling.  “Yeah,” she said.

I’ve never actually been a weed dealer.  I needed something to break the ice, and I didn’t want to seem holier than thou.  In hindsight, I think it might have gotten a more interesting response if I’d told her that I used to be an acid dealer.

“How’d you get out of it?” I asked.

“I realized that I was destroying people,” she said.  “I didn’t want to have a hand in that.”

The whole thing had the feel of “Inside the Actors Studio.”  When I told her that I had overheard that she had sold crack, she wasn’t offended that I’d been eavesdropping, on the contrary: she seemed to feel flattered that I’d been paying attention.

This episode is a good example of how having a blog when you go on a trip, like this trip of mine here in Detroit, changes the trip.  If it weren’t for the responsibility of not only writing blog entries, but also blog entries that read well and contain interesting incidents, characters, and dialogue, I probably would not have felt the need to speak to the woman in the Comerica Park jacket.  I probably would have just said, Wow, it’s not like there are no drug dealers in New York, but you don’t (or at least I don’t) overhear conversations like that on the subway.  Somehow, crack dealing doesn’t just come up on the New York subway the way it did on that westbound Jefferson bus.  But then I would have let it go, most likely, because I wouldn’t have wanted to invade someone’s privacy.

In reality, what happened was that I initiated a conversation with the woman because I knew that this would be a lame blog entry if I didn’t.  My fear of doing something mildly unethical or rude to another person was superseded by my fear of writing a blog entry that is all setup and no payoff.  

What’s interesting is that she didn’t seem to mind.  I was expecting her to tell me to fuck myself, and not actually share any information, much less information about how crack dealing had troubled her conscience.  What does that say about the situation?  I don’t really know.

detroit-bus

~ by electrorefutedrobo on August 9, 2009.

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