It seems I look like a drug user. Now, before you get up in arms and accuse me of stereo-typing or profiling, consider the following facts:
- Substance abusers often tend to develop certain physical traits. These traits are generally the result of the havoc their substance of choice wreaks upon their bodies. These traits have nothing to do with the individual on a personal level and are therefore not stereo-typical of anyone of a certain race or background, rather of people with a proclivity toward certain substances.
- If you want to accuse anyone of profiling, accuse those who deal drugs on the dark street corners of Berlin and Amsterdam. They apparently assumed that I use drugs based only, I assume, on the facts that I am a white male and that I was passing through the dark street corners of Berlin and Amsterdam.
I can say this because I did not travel to Europe alone. I went with a Vietnamese friend and not once did anyone offer him drugs of any sort. I would say that perhaps these dealers assumed my friend spoke no language they would understand. This cannot be the case, however, because when a small man stepped out from behind a statue in Berlin he walked directly to me and said, in English and with no hint of question, “You want hashish.”
I asserted quite strongly that I certainly did not. He then, without ever addressing my friend, melted back into the shadows of Germany.
In Amsterdam a similar occurrence occurred. We passed a dark corner and from the shadows leapt, actually leapt, a small man. He, also without inflecting his voice to indicate a query, offered me illicit substances. This time it was cocaine. This time, he also used default English, though it sounded as if he barely spoke my language himself. Upon my decline he also faded back into the night, never addressing my friend.
It seems as if these discriminations are poor business practices for these guys because, based on a later incident at an Amsterdam coffee shop, my friend showed that he was in no way opposed to obtaining at least certain types of drugs. Perhaps he only wished to procure legal intoxicants and perhaps somehow these street dealers sensed that.
But how? And why didn’t they sense that I wanted no substances, legal or otherwise?And why did they always start with English? Unless they’d been following us and heard me speak, they’d have had no clue that I’m aware of that I speak English. What is it about me that identified me as an English speaking potential purchaser of illegal drugs? I wasn’t overweight at the time, although the Army with their nearly anorexic guidelines said differently, but I was by no means emaciated. I wasn’t covered in sores. I don’t have any involuntary twitches or any of the other tell tale signs of drug use I’ve come to recognize in the time I’ve worked at my current job.
So what was it?
And apparently, whatever it was, it was pronounced enough that it wasn’t only drug dealers that recognized it. My friend and I, after landing in Frankfort, visited Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Wexford (a coastal town in Ireland with a very cozy B and B that had three or four beds to a room and a husband and wife that showed up at the door early every morning with a very satisfying breakfast and a newspaper), Paris and Barcelona. After Barcelona we sailed to some port in Italy and made our way to Rome where we were robbed by Gladiator impersonators who take your picture with your camera in various “I’m being killed by Gladiators” poses in front of the Coliseum, then demand an egregious amount of money for the honor of being photographed, on your own device, as they “kill” you. After all this we took a train back to Munich to catch our flight home.
As we attempted to depart the train station three German police officers, one male, one female, one canine (a German Shepherd, of course), approached me. Me. Not my friend. The male officer asked, immediately in English although this time that was understandable because I had my touristy backpack on, “Where are you coming from?”
“What is in your bag?”
“Clothes”, and reluctantly because I didn’t know the import/export/customs laws and had no desire to go to German jail, “A bottle of wine for a friend.”
“You have drugs in your bag.” Again, no hint of a question.
“I will look in your bag.”
“Ok.” I said. I removed the pack from my back and held it out to him.
He sneered at me and then said, in what sounded like a Schwarzeneggeresque attempt to be intimidating (he was successful) “Get out of here.”
I gladly went. But so did they. They never once addressed my friend who had only barely remembered to rid himself of his remaining “legal” substance before we left Amsterdam.
I know you likely don’t know me, but there is nothing about me that I can see that indicates I have a desire to buy drugs or do drugs. Perhaps it’s simply a European thing. I’ve never been offered drugs on the dark streets of California or Seattle or even Las Vegas.
I bid you adieu…and a don’t.
Adieu…visit Europe if you have the chance. There are many beautiful sights and sites to see. Stonehenge is especially impressive, as are Windsor castle and Notre Dame. Try the Donor Kebab. They are prolific and quite tasty.
A don’t…go unprepared. If you share whatever characteristic it is that identifies me, somehow, as an aspiring drug addled fiend, expect to be fending off small men at every shadow you pass. You could simply stay in at night, but where’s the fun in that?