My New Low

My low point came Sunday evening, the last day of my vacation. Traveling on the Bainbridge Island Ferry back to Seattle, I ignore the "No Smoking" signs and take a couple hits off of a prerolled joint while using the bathroom.

I walk out to see a ferry worker waiting with this knowing smirk on his face. I say hello and act - as always - as if this is the way things should be. He responds with a curt "hi" and steps into the bathroom as if on a mission. I return to the truck, shift my little boy aside, and sit down in the driver's seat, with my wife feeding our baby girl next to me.

Then I see him, the deckhand, approaching in the rearview mirror. In a moment he's next to me, hollering "Don't smoke here!" through the glass. I say "OK" nod yes and hope to leave it at that.

But that isn't enough for him. He's seeking some groveling apology I'm not willing to offer. So it begins.

"If you've got a drug problem..." he starts, and with that I'm swinging open the door and confronting him. "You really out to see someone."

He's a big guy, bigger than me. But hell, who isn't? Regardless, he steps back to the end of the truck as I plant myself firmly in front of the door. Despite my just-obtained buzz, I'm beginning to flush and seethe.

"Don't talk like that in front of my family," I say evenly and firmly, as I scan the dozens of cars containing dozens of faces behind us. "If you have a beef with me, then bring it to me and me alone."

"If you don't want them to know," he replies, "then you shouldn't be doing it around them. You're putting everyone in jeopardy by smoking here."

And he's right. Both of us know it and also know there is only so far I can push back before ending up in jail... or worse.

"I respect that," I admit. "This is my first time on the ferry and I can assure you it will be my last."

But again, he wants more. Sensing my willingness to let things go, he's obliged to get a few more barbs in.

"You really out to see someone about your problem," he says with no compassion, just cynicism. "Especially with two kids depending on you. You don't feel bad doing drugs in front of them?"

The irony is, I smoke bud to keep from bashing in the heads of guys just like this - bullies - who are everywhere. They aren't satisfied until everyone who they have any power over is marching in lockstep to their orders.

I try to see their side, you know? All the whippings they got as little shits made them into even bigger ones. The pot is the only thing keeping me fron launching into them, into him.

"Look," I respond wearily. "This isn't your business, so just go."

"You made it my business when you smoked ma-ri-juana on my boat," he swings one last time. "I could pursue this further, you know?"

"Do what you have to do. I'll be right here if you need me."