How Not To Get High in Amsterdam

Written by: Dave Owen

“Those people are laughing at me.”

“I promise they’re not laughing at you.”

The guys at the next table are definitely laughing at her. My girlfriend is trying to light a joint without its smouldering contents dropping into her lap/drink/cleavage. We have taken a tentative step onto the wild side, and it is serving only to humiliate us.

A coffee shop in Amsterdam

Tell anyone you’re spending a weekend in Amsterdam and they’ll immediately assume the sole purpose of your trip is to, well, trip. Though I spend the weeks prior to departure taking offense at such aspersions (“I’m going to see the museums, the architecture, the pancakes!”), it takes us approximately seven hours after our arrival to pitch up at one of Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops.

Drugs are bad, mmkay?

“We’re too middle class for this,” I say as we push open the shaded glass door. “They’ll sniff out that we don’t belong.”

The coffee shop smells like the corner of the school playground I was never cool enough to visit. A gaudy array of stoner iconography leers at us from behind the counter, which bears a long list of weed variants that reads like it was copy/pasted from the thesaurus entry for ‘fucking hippy nonsense.’

“Just play it cool,” I whisper.

My girlfriend bounds to the counter. “Hello! I have no idea what I’m doing.”

The girl behind the counter rolls her eyes and jabs a finger at the mildest option on the menu. My girlfriend meekly accepts, purchasing a small quantity along with papers and a lighter.

There is only one way that we could possibly be less cool, and it is neatly encapsulated by what I say next. “I’ll have a space cake, please.”

The girl looks at me like I am something forcibly ejected by a smoker’s cough, and I meet her eyes to make sure she knows that I am appropriately ashamed of myself.

A pot brownie (space cake)

The smoking room is a dingy space glassed off from the rest of the cafe, techno music fuzzing from an unseen source as if struggling to penetrate the smoky fugue. We find a table opposite a group of younger guys slouched low enough in their chairs to suggest they have been there for quite some time.

I open the pot brownie packet to read the accompanying instructions. “It says I might not feel the effects for six hours.”

“You probably won’t feel anything,” says my girlfriend, arranging her purchases on the sticky table surface. “You’re freakishly large.”

“What if I start tripping balls during Match of the Day?”

She arches an eyebrow at me. “Even that couldn’t make it interesting to watch.”

A bad trip

My girlfriend is an experienced smoker, adept at making rollups, but at the crucial moment she realises she has no idea what to do with the weed itself.

“Is it supposed to be this lumpy?”

The pale green substance she removes from the clear baggy looks like the congealed fluff I pull from my belly button on a bi-daily basis.

According to the brownie instructions I should only eat half at first in order to see how it affects me. To prove my rebellious qualities I eat the entire thing in two bites. It sticks my teeth together and tastes like an armpit.

An Amsterdam coffee shop.

My girlfriend rolls a joint and clicks the lighter into life. When she brings the flame to the cigarette the paper smokes briefly, only for half of its contents to fall into her lap as soon as she takes a drag. She swats at her jeans madly like a simple ember will cause her to combust.

“You are so white,” I say.

“You have pot brownie in your teeth,” she spits back.

Her second attempt to activate the joint is met with similarly pitiful results. The guys at the next table begin to nudge each other and nod in our direction.

“Those people are laughing at me.”

“They’re not laughing at you.”

I am not being entirely dishonest. They are not so much laughing as muttering insults and chuckling mockingly as they take exaggerated puffs of their own immaculately engineered joints.

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” she says. “I just want to get high.”

I pat her hand in the most patronising fashion I can manage. “You haven’t even smoked anything and you’re already a junkie.”

She pushes me away and tries a subtle (it’s not at all subtle) glance at our neighbours, every single one of whom look like they could do this for a living.

“Maybe I need a grinder,” she says.

“It’s been too long for you to buy one now,” I say. “They’ll know that we’re total failures and we’ll never be able to look each other in the eye again.”

She huffs and throws the remaining weed into her bag. When we leave Amsterdam in a couple of days she will inadvertently smuggle it through the security check at Schiphol airport and panickedly flush it down the toilet.

“Let’s just go. This was a terrible mistake.”

We leave, trying to hold our heads high despite having failed so spectacularly to be remotely interesting people, and retire to our hotel to have a bath and watch Match of the Day. We are in bed by 10pm.

I wave a hand in front of my eyes. “I still don’t feel anything.”

My girlfriend pretends to be asleep.

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