Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Dangers of Inhaling

I cannot imagine what it is like to be a parent. It seems like every time I turn on the TV a local news station is playing a teaser for their ten o’ clock broadcast that includes an ominous warning like “death or disfigurement imminent for your new-born; details at 10.” Just the other day a news station in Memphis hinted that “teenagers all over the mid-south are snorting their parent’s bath salts; we’ll tell you why in the primetime broadcast.”

Curious to discover what would have kids everywhere doing rails of Calgone off their parent’s coffee table, I investigated and discovered that the “bath salts” in question came in small black packets under names like “White Lightening” and were sold primarily from gas stations in the south. Apparently the powder contains mephadrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone which is a legal stimulant that causes paranoia and hostility. 
Some have compared its effects to cocaine or Waffle House hash-browns.

The trend is growing at an alarming rate in Louisiana, where poison control centers have logged hundreds of calls concerning the drug and some parishes have already banned it. Apparently, the epidemic is creeping northward into Tennessee and that is why our local news station felt compelled to warn parents in the region.

While I am sure their journalistic efforts were invaluable to the thousands of local parents who routinely purchase their bath salts from an Exxon TigerMart, I would hope that any parent would become curious when their teenage son began stockpiling bath salts while exclusively taking showers. And while I am on the subject, what legitimate bubble-bath is sold in small black pouches and called White Lightening? The name alone practically begs for a D.E.A. investigation. They could have called it “Peruvian snow” or “Tijuana velvet dust” and maintained the same level of subtlety.

Unfortunately, it appears that bath accessories are not the only items being snorted by wayward youth. On December 15th last year, a group of teens burglarized a woman’s home in Silver Springs Shores, Florida. The thieves absconded with jewelry, electronics, and the cremated remains of two Great Danes and a senior citizen. Thinking that the ashes were large amounts of cocaine, they decided to snort them but quickly became disappointed when several doses failed to yield favorable results.

Worried that the powdered substance in the urn and decorative boxes might not be a narcotic, they enlisted the help of a trusted adviser who declared them to be “cement mix” and held onto them (perhaps in case he decided to expand his patio.) It was only weeks later, when a member of the group saw news reports identifying the powder as “cremated remains,” that they realized what had happened.
Three alleged members of the braintrust

 I am not sure which I find more egregious, the fact that these promising young men have chosen a life of crime or that they lack even the most rudimentary powers of deduction. I shudder to imagine the logical process they followed to conclude that powder contained in prominently-displayed decorative urns and boxes must be cocaine. Was that really the most plausible explanation the five of them could arrive at?

My favorite part of the story is the fact that they sought outside counsel to determine the substance’s origin. I can almost imagine the five guys, having just snorted a few lines of “canine special,” saying to each other “This is my third rail and I’m not feeling anything yet, maybe we should call Hank and make sure this is good cocaine.” Ironically, it seems that the burglars sought advice from the only Floridian less intelligent than themselves. Here was a man who listened to the group’s narrative, examined the powered substance contained in the decorative containers and confidently declared that his associates must have snorted a half-kilo of Quikrete. After they left, poor Hank probably wondered why the mixture took so long to set and did such a poor job of keeping his mailbox upright.

The young men were eventually caught and linked to 20 unsolved burglaries in the area. They are currently awaiting trial and a congratulatory e-mail from Keith Richards. The remaining un-snorted ashes were recovered and returned to their owner who was grateful to have them back in her possession. She has not said whether she plans to add the words “Not cocaine” under the “In Memory of my Papa” line engraved on the urn to prevent future mix-ups.

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