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My Volcano Day: You Mean Water Pipe 5

I enjoy selling to the drug dealers.

Some of these are obvious, they are clean cut and inconspicuous, and have come in to buy a very expensive and accurate scale with cash while wearing white cotton gloves so as not to leave their fingerprints anywhere. Some of these are dead obvious in the other direction, they are dripping in money, gold chains around their neck, a ring on every finger, wearing all designer clothing, and leaving their fingerprints on everything, including us if we come out from behind the counter.

I like selling scales. Calibrating them, I like testing them with the little set of weights we keep under the counter.

I like flirting with the boys who buy them because I know they have money and small p power, street power.

I’m starting to get better at selling things, and selling more water pipes off of the mid shelves, and more bubblers instead of pipes. I note that it doesn’t bump my commission up very much, and also that the moment one gets good at selling something, one gets paired with a manager who has an even higher percentage and incentive, and they all have a way of sniping customers out from underneath me.

One day Brittney sweetly snipes a Volcano sale and I’m hopping mad, as I’ve told her how much I want that. I’m still making under ten dollars an hour and the job is beginning to lose its sheen for me. I feel like I’ve encountered every kind of odd customer, and now am familiar with the entire product base.

I’m missing out on social events because of the job, and it just doesn’t seem worth it to me. 

I often muse on the oddness of a store that sells legal drugs and illegal drug paraphernalia, yet all under the pretense of legal use. It’s an odd agreement to live under. It’s the closest thing we have to legal drug sales. Like playing a game of Simon Says with every customer, while winking and nodding to them through the ruse.

It’s always a fun day when we get a new shipment of product into the store, and get to log and inventory the items, and then find room for them on the shelves. It’s like Christmas morning.

At first I don’t get to do much but sort and count items and verify that we got as many in the box as are on the shipping label, and maybe remove some of the packaging to make them shelf ready. Slowly, though, I go on to being able to design my own portion of the counter displays. Mostly I stick to designing the vaporizer portion of the display, as I’m the most passionate advocate for these in the store. I put a mini silver Xmas wreath around the Volcano, it fits perfectly. Erin and Chuck love it.

We’re training more girls now that we’re heading into the holiday season and often there are three or even four people working at once. It means I make nothing on commission and I see the ways that that promises of high commissions are impacted by the choices of the ownership and management. The management keeps asking the owners to restock products that we are out of, but the owners want us to push other product. I don’t see this as a successful business model. 

I’m sure we’d get attention from the powers that be for quintupling our order of whippets, but it could be done and we would sell them, and I would make commission off of them. The structure leads to stagnation and there are gaps in product in the store, and things are not going well. I sense a pending shift in staffing, and indeed, Brittney is let go, accused of stealing, which she probably was but everyone is and everyone knows it.

Crystal is promoted to manager and what before had some semblance of community now has none.

I see that the owners are just trying to cut costs, and they fire any manager who has been there over a year to have a lower paid staff. The store runs as it’s supposed to, but Crystal is the opposite of a go-getter, twenty-one years old, and dealing with serious anxiety and trauma. At this point, Angel and I are the senior staff, and I’ve only been here a few months. I realize how quick the turnover is among the retail staff and lose even more investment in selling product for Headz.

My judgment for people buying smoking tools instead of vaporizing tools gets steeper. I’ve been vaporizing long enough that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a regular weed smoker. Smoking seems dirty to me, and often when it’s offered at a party or a friend’s house I will turn it down. It’s frustrating as it makes my usage less portable, and I don’t take part in all the breaks that people take from work to smoke a joint. I now prefer the high of vaporized weed enough that I don’t ever take part in smoking it.

I’m always trying to sell the vaporizers we have in stock, especially, of course, the highest priced item in the store: the Volcano.

And then one day, a clean cut neurology student at Stanford comes in. He’s visiting his girlfriend at Berkeley, he says, but he sure is friendly. He loves consuming weed, he’s OCD about the way he does so, and he is sure that vaporizing is for him.

“Well, if you’re going to vaporize I recommend the best of all vaporizers, the Volcano.” I say.

“Why’s that?” He asks, skeptically. I’m ducking under the counter and sliding open the display case. I remove the display Volcano from under the shelf and plug it into the wall, setting it onto the counter while uncoiling the power cord. I’m making exaggerated movements with my hands when doing so, and I notice that it is working, he is looking at the Volcano instead of me.

“Well, firstly most other vaporizers don’t give you true vaporization. They either don’t vaporize at all and don’t give you the desired effect, or they get too hot and burn your material slightly.” I explain.

“Also,” I continue “the Volcano is the only vaporizer classified as a medical device. It’s what the studies were conducted on that allowed our medical laws here here in California, as it proved the vaporization is a carcinogen-free way to consume material.” 

“So how do you use this thing?” he asks.

“It’s heating up right now. You take this compartment right here and place your ground product in it, then this piece goes on top , like a French Press, only it should only lightly tamp the stuff down. There’s also another attachment specifically designed for essential oils if that’s what you’re using. Then when it reaches temperature you click this other piece with the bag onto it, fill the bag with vapor, unclick it, and then click the mouthpiece on to it.”

“Doesn’t seem too complicated.”

“I’m sure you’ve worked with things that are far more difficult than this.” I say, smiling.

“There are definitely a few parts that heat up and need to be avoided, it’s not perfectly user-friendly, but hey – no cancer! And you don’t smell or taste like smoke.” 

“You seem like you really love this thing, have you tried it?” he asks.

“Oh I use it every day, I have one at home. Only the best for me.” I smile. He smiles. I realize he’s flirting with me.

“Only the best for me as well, then.” he says. “I’ll have what she’s having. Ring me up.” He takes his credit card out of his wallet and hands it to me. 

I finally sell a Volcano. I slide his credit card and use our special heart shaped hole punch on his rewards card. “This purchase already gets you sixty credit at the store in rewards, but that I would save it to use on Volcano bags, screens, and these rubber o-rings that hold the bags onto the nozzle.” I say, holding one of them up. 

He nods while signing the credit card receipt.

“Would you like your purchase gift wrapped? It’s the least conspicuous way to carry it.” I explain.

“Sure.” He chuckles.

I get him a fresh Volcano from the storeroom, and gift wrap it in our silver wrapping paper which has the logo embossed into it. I wrap it so that one can’t see what inside. My mom taught me to wrap presents as a kid, department store style, creasing all the corners and making professional folds, so I wrap his that way. I place a bow on it and hand it to him, and look him in the eyes. 

“Enjoy.” I say with a smile.

“I already am.” He says, and winks at me.

He leaves. I turn to Crystal.

“I quit.” I say, and remove my lanyard with the e-cigarette from around my neck, grab my things from the back room, and walk out of Headz, never to return.

(If you like “You Mean Water Pipe” please buy a copy of my first book, Down and Out in California, or support me on Patreon for a free copy)

Head Shop Job: You Mean Water Pipe 1

No B Words: You Mean Water Pipe 2

Kratom: You Mean Water Pipe 3

Salvia and Spice: You Mean Water Pipe 4


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