The Price

21 01 2013

ImageBack in high-school I had a conversation with a guy that went something like this.  A quiet, almost secretive voice, “Hey Miller.”  Speaking in the same tone; “Hey what?”  I was told you could help me score some marijuana.”  “Maybe, how much you looking to score?”  “I don’t know, what’s the usual?”  (What?!!  Never had that question before, hmm.)  “Uh, dude, you ever smoke dope before?”  A sheepish look, “No, but I want to try, it but don’t want people to know, can you get me some or not?” (Oh boy, this is gonna be good!)  “Yeah, I can hook you up, but the stuff I have is really powerful and I only sell one joint at a time; it’ll cost you $5.”  “Okay, when?”  “Before school tomorrow, parking lot.”  My customer was already there when I showed up the next morning.  “Ya got it?”  “Yep, you got the 5?”  He stood there just looking at the hand rolled reefer cigarette he now possessed for some time, even shaking a little.  “Hey man, if you don’t want to do this that’s fine,” I told him. “No, I do, this is just so new to me and a little scary.”  “Look, just puff on it lightly and don’t smoke the whole thing or you won’t be able to move.”

I didn’t see him the next day and wondered where he was and if he was okay.  The answer would come the next morning back in the parking lot. “Miller, you weren’t kidding about how powerful that dope was,” an excited voice was telling me.  “After my parents went to bed, I sneaked down to the garage and lit that bad boy up!”  “And,” I questioned. “Well the first few puffs I thought I was going to die I coughed so hard, but then I got used to it and really liked what was happening.  I gotta confess, I got into so much I ended up smoking the whole thing.”  I know you said not to, but it was great!  I stayed buzzed all night and most of the next morning.  I told my mom I wasn’t feeling good and she called in for me before she left for work.”  Now laughing hysterically it took him a minute to get the rest of his words out, “That was the most incredible thing I ever experienced!  I told a couple of my buddies about it and they want to try this super dope with me this weekend, think you can sell me another joint, maybe two?”  This was just too good and I was laughing as hard my friend was, but for a different reason. Reaching into my back pocket I pulled out my wallet, took a 5 from it and handed it to the guy.  “What’s this,” he asked with puzzlement on his face. “Your money back, use it to get yourself a couple of beers at the Depot (young person’s bar back in the day); you’ll get a better buzz that way if that’s what you’re looking for.”  “What are you talking about?  I never got that high on 3.2 beer” (type of beer you could by in Ohio back in the 70s if you were between the ages of 18 and 21.)  

“What was that stuff anyway, redbud from Columbia?”  “No,” I finally fessed up, “Oregano from my mom’s spice rack!”  I’m now looking into a face with a very blank stare plastered across it.  “No, you’re lying, I couldn’t have been more stoned,” He demanded.  “I know what I experienced, just like you said, I couldn’t stand up I was so wasted from that weed.”  “You were wasted on believing what I told you and what your mind thought you were putting in your lungs, not on any “Weed.”  I run into this guy every so often and he’ll always say, “Sold any really fine oregano lately?”  He also told me once he stayed mad at me for 20 years, but then realized I probably did him a favor.

Yeah, I get a little chuckle every time I think about that episode.  Just a little fun with a guy, no one seriously hurt.  It would be great if all deceptions were that innocent with no casualties.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  Quite often someone gets hurt in some fashion when they’ve been the target of a ruse or scam.  I saw that 1st hand when it happened to my mother.

Mom was in her 70s when the whole thing started, a simple mailing arrived at her house saying she had won some enormous amount of money and all she had to do was remit a small handling fee and they would cut her a check.  I wasn’t aware of it at first, but one day while visiting her I saw a stack of mail on her table all representing themselves as agents trying to ensure she would get the money owed to her, and all wanting small amounts of capital to get the ball rolling.  Upon further investigation I found these letters in almost every drawer in the house.  It was quite the showdown when I confronted her with all letters that she had been hiding from me.  “I knew you’d be upset and not trust these people if I told you about it,” she said angrily.  “But these are good people who are looking out for my best interest, I’ve talked to them on the phone and they’re really nice, Christian too!”  “Soon we’ll have more money than we’ll know what to do with!”  Oh, Boy, not good.   It took some doing, but I was able to get mom’s power of attorney which enabled me to look at her bank statement.  Easily 5 figures had been siphoned from her account by these vultures.  Next we had her mail redirected and delivered to our house. There was so much in the beginning it would come bundled, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 lbs worth a week.  Finally, I started intercepting these calls from the “nice Christian people” who were only looking out for mom’s best interest.  Funny, when I talked to them I didn’t get the same warm and cozy feeling that ma had.  Matter of fact it was more on the line of rude and loud, oh well, so much for fellowship.  When it was over, the amount of money mom turned over to these people was much higher than first estimated.  The worse part came when mom finally realized she had been duped and humiliated by these people, something she never fully recovered from.

J.C. Watts said, “Character is doing the right thing when on one is looking.  There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing wrong is to get caught.”

We can question forever how anyone can have so much malevolence in their heart as to victimize any person, especially the elderly.  The only answer I come up with is the same one I always land on, if something is so wrong, what is it that I am doing to make it right? Do I live my life in such a way that I would never think of harming someone else for my own advancement?  I like to think the answer to that is yes just like most who will read this post. But I also realize there are ones who have no qualms of pursuing gain whatever the cost might be to another.  My prayer is they come to understand whatever earthly reward they achieve is nothing compared to what they sacrifice in the big picture.  Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way, “the time is always right to do what is right.”

Let us all examine who we are and what truly is valuable now and in the long run, not only for ourselves but others.

As always my understanding and belief comes from what I have learned from the One I call Lord, Savior, Emanuel.  Matthew 6:19-21; “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I wish you all happiness and riches in the true meaning of the word. 🙂




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