The Bad Trip in Amsterdam – Part 1: Arrival

I’m walking down the main street of Amsterdam when suddenly the drugs kick in.

I stop and laugh, my friend Chris stopping beside me. “The space cakes have just hit me!” I giggle with a thumbs up. He smiles back and we continue walking. After a few more steps my smile starts to waver as the feeling starts to sink in.

Oh shit, I think, the space cakes have just hit me!

Some go to Amsterdam for the amazing art and history. Some go for the accessible sex. Others though, they go for the drugs.

Before leaving I was convinced I’d do no drugs at all. Drugs aren’t really for me. I prefer to be completely in control of myself at all times. My friend Chris though, had other ideas.

To him the only reason to go was to get stoned. He was already dreaming of smoking spliffs while listening to Pink Floyd. I scoffed at the idea. Why bother to travel all that way just to do drugs? We could do that at home. No thanks!

Easier said than done. Within an hour of arrival Chris had dragged me to a coffee shop on a quiet street in the suburbs, far away from the main tourist area. My friend’s confident idea of a drug fuelled trip had immediately deflated once we entered the city. Pretty quickly we both realised we had no idea what we were doing and it made us feel ashamed.

Sure, we knew what bongs and spliffs were, we knew that drugs did things to your mind, but aside from that we were clueless. As two middle-class white boys we were always far too mature to ever do drugs at school. We had friends who smoked, but we wouldn’t. Either we believed that we were above such petty amusements. Or more than likely feared that our parents would find out and ground us.

Now though we were adults! (Never mind the fact that we couldn’t grow a full beard between us.) We were adults! And we would do what all adults do. Experiment with drugs. Yes, experiment! That’s the word. We were better than all those young morons getting stoned and eating endless packets of crisps. We had class, we had style. Drugs were a way for us to open our minds and allow us to transcend ourselves.

In other words, we were inexperienced idiots. We knew nothing and knowing nothing means quickly experiencing doubt. You can read every guide there is on the internet on how to roll a joint, but that doesn’t teach you how to do it. The only way to learn is with practice, something we had none of.

We feared the ridicule of the busy coffee shops filled with tourists. Afraid that the others in there would laugh at our feeble attempts to roll a spliff. Or even worse see us for what we really were – a couple of amateurs.

So we ran to the Internet. Found a coffee shop so far away from the city center that it was bound to be dead – nobody there to judge us.

We set our plan. Get in. Get joint. Get out. Easy.

Eventually we mustered the confidence to put the plan into action. We stepped through the door and were immediately met by the gaze of a middle-aged woman who looked much like our own mothers.

Panic started to set in. Endless questions were running through my mind. What if all of this was an elaborate plan to arrest us? What if drugs weren’t legal and we’d made a mistake? What if we embarrass ourselves when ordering?

I put these thoughts to the side. There would be plenty of time for paranoia later. We tried to act cool. Strutted over to the counter. Acted blasé. “Hi can we get a pot of tea…” Scratch of the cheek to show you don’t give a shit. “…and two joints, please?”

The woman didn’t even blink, maybe she was also pretending to be cool. She turned around to put some hot water into a teapot. “Would you like Darjeeling or Rooibos?” she asked.

Our eyes opened with panic. I looked at Chris, Chris looked at me. Darjeeling? Rooibos? What the hell are they? Types of weed? What if one of them is too strong for us? Why the fuck didn’t we research types of weed before coming in here?! Shit, shit, shit! We were already trapped by our lack of experience. Chris took a breath, shrugged, confident – cool. “Either is good, we can smoke anything.”

The woman stopped and looked at us. “What?” she gawped, we replied with the same, “What?” She asked again. “Darjeeling or Rooibos?”

My toes curled. With a red face, I spoke up, stumbling through the words. “Er, I don’t think we, um, r-really know the d-difference.” The woman smiled with sympathy, “Well, Darjeeling is sour with a bit of a kick. And Rooibos is full-bodied and nutty.” Chris and I again looked at each other. Sour weed? What the hell? Nutty? Does that mean it makes you crazy?

We shrugged and managed to squeak the word “Rooibos” before paying and heading to a table. Moments later our tea was placed in front of us alongside a plate with two joints. Our embarrassment multiplied when we saw the teabag label. Rooibos. Fucking Rooibos! We both pretended not to see it, but it was obvious from our silence that we both had. I smacked the tea around my mouth “Hmm, tastes quite nutty!” Chris glared and we went back to our silence.

In the way that all good friends do, we read each other’s minds. We both knew that we couldn’t further embarrass ourselves by smoking in the the cafe. We instead went to the park and took photos of ourselves in various poses smoking our joints. That was the cool thing to do.

Feeling proud of our achievements, we left the park filled with confidence. So confident that we didn’t look both ways before crossing the street. A bicycle suddenly slammed into Chris, the front wheel going between his legs at full speed.

A middle-aged cyclist looked over the handle bars apologetically, saying some unknown words in Dutch. Probably, “Oh dear, I’ve hit another tourist, better pretend I’m saying sorry when really I’m glad! These fucking annoying people are always getting in the fucking way!” Chris apologised profusely before limping away embarrassed.

We wasted away the rest of the day in a haze. Hiding in parks and down quiet alleys. Smoking our spliffs and feeling a tiny bit light headed on what we later realised was the weakest weed in the world.

That night we went back to the hotel boasting of our achievements. We were no longer mere amateurs, we were experts. We understood the finer points of marijuana. Tomorrow we would continue our education.

We would buy some magic mushrooms.

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