Trying to quit smoking is never fun, and Richard was in desperate need of an alternative. He’d heard electronic cigarettes were great alternatives for someone like him who was trying to get the proverbial monkey off his back. Several people had You Tube videos on the internet praising the virtues of the Blu brand of e-cig with a battery with atomizer and liquid nicotine cartridges that supposedly help a person give up tobacco by pretending to smoke in the meantime. Demos showed how “good” hits gave a person the look and feel, so it’d be like smoking while you’re not smoking.
He spent so much money over the last 20 years of smoking that he decided to give “vaping“ a shot and went to a local head shop called Kaleidoscope. Other so-called smoking accessories, although being quite a curiosity, were never a necessity or yearning in his past, so this was the first time to enter this retail establishment. Peace signs donned the walls, and lava lamps and bean bags were thrown askew within its quirky confines.
A faint waft of patchouli greeted his senses upon crossing the dingle-belled threshold, and a pock-marked teen clerk directed him toward the back of the store. There, a hand-painted sign announced the location of PIPEs, complete with a slit-eyed smiley face etched beside it. Good movie marketing somewhere along the line replayed a quick clip from the movie Dazed and Confused in his head.
The subliminal message directed him past the stacks of second-hand music CDs and a piercing station to the rear counter. He noticed a female teenager getting a stud put through her navel and a pale, greasy-haired man standing at a pervert-friendly distance to watch the procedure. Without his regular nicotine infusion, the girl’s nervous cackle was just shrill enough to make Richard’s left eye twitch.
Too much stimuli catapulted him into overload while he waited in the seemingly endless line. A flashing strobe light, acrid smells, a postered image of a scantily-clad Rhianna on the wall … it was all boiling over into a sensory frenzy. The guy behind the counter was a bit sketchy, too, constantly wiping his dripping brow line and pulling his fat earlobe as he glanced around the place. Richard began to wonder about this place and inwardly curse his choice of retail outlets.
The circumstances were becoming too much and started to piss him off more and more. Not caring what other kind of carcinogens the medical community discovered in these e-cigs, he looked beyond the showcased bongs and one-hitters to the clammy clerk and demanded he produce the product immediately. Withdrawal was overwhelming him, and he wanted to start vaping — now!
One hundred dollars and a shaky drive home later, Richard popped open his laptop to search for directions how to get his new contraption going. A news headline on his email’s landing page immediately caught his eye. There was a drug raid at Kaleidoscope at 8:05 pm, just after he left the shop. The ensuing search had apparently been unsuccessful, although the DEA officers suspected a trade of synthetic cannabis to young kids. Word on the street had the establishment teeming with K2 buyers straight out of a precautionary television after-school-special that only Art Linkletter himself could love.
Richard marveled at the coincidence of his being there just before it was busted. He sat wagging his head back and forth in bemusement as he opened the plastic shopping bag from the troubled store. Inside he found the bottom filled with little silver packets labelled “Spice” with a tiny subtitle of “herbal incense” and shrugged at the surprise. He sure was lucky to get all this free incense and thought it must be a “buy one get some” special from Blu. With tremulous fingers, Richard typed in “Google” to figure out how the cartridges work and find where he could buy a cool new incense burner.
*This post was prompted with Kaleidoscope at Studio 30 Plus.