Salvia and Spice: You Mean Water Pipe 4

We also sell salvia divinorum, a psychedelic mint, which draws in the psychonaut crowd. We sell the leaf in 1X and 5X strengths, and have a liquid tincture.  I have to immediately remind people who come into the store looking for salvia that they cannot talk about illegal drugs in the store, as they always want to start swapping psychedelic stories. I occasionally break the rules for the old hippies who want to tell me about the sixties LSD and how the network ran through the Bay Area.

I try salvia a few times, though once it actually works I’m done smoking it. That’s the way it is with about half of the drugs that I try.

The time I go the farthest I inhale the 5X deeply out of a plastic bong that was sitting in the breakroom, so I took it from work. I take three consecutive hits and lie back in bed and close my eyes. I’m transported to Mexico and there are men sitting around a fire speaking Spanish, wearing ponchos and playing guitar. There are horses behind them, and the sounds of their breathing and neighing echo through me. 

I feel like the veins and arteries in my neck and head have been constricted, and it translates into a multicolored snake slithering in one eyehole, out another, in a nostril, out an ear, in the other nostril, out the other ear, round and round like an ouroboros until I open my eyes and the vision pops like a bubble. I try the tincture once after that with the Mad Scientist, and feel some of the constriction effect especially in my head and neck, but it mostly just kills all the taste buds in my mouth to hold the alcohol under my tongue. 

I wonder whether only the boring things are legal, or whether the things seem boring only because they are legal.


We also sell spice and and K2, which aren’t boring, and thankfully we don’t sell much of these in Berkeley. The people who buy it are not well. They are Bay Area street people who are mentally ill and/or addicted to other drugs, usually stimulants, or roid ragey students who say it complements their workout. I do not like doing business with either of these. I usually try to direct them to another head shop. I never try synthetic marijuana in any form.

My least favorite customers, though, are the whippet addicts.

We sell whippets, whippets by the case, crackers to open these, and the canisters they sell at the kitchen supply store, we sell for three times the price. The chargers come in on a cycle, and the addicts compete to buy us and all the other head shops out on the day of delivery. They buy whippets by the case, and since we offer a rewards program they get steep discounts for buying hundreds of boxes at a time. It’s upsetting because we never have them in stock, we are always sending the students looking for a few boxes for their party across the street to Jabberwock, or to the porn store down the road which stocks them for a hefty price. 

Instead, we sell them all to someone, usually bipolar or addicted to other drugs as well, who has trouble with their nerve function and thinking because they are inhaling these things all day long, every day. It’s astonishing to me that nitrous oxide is addictive to anyone, but it is, and they all look the same. Desperate, ashamed, pallid, and shaky. Many are young, buying with a parent’s credit card, and can barely sign their name they’ve so impacted the control of their brain to their body, even when sober.

It’s hard for me to watch and I usually make one of the other girls handle these customers in exchange for me taking care of some other class of customer that they don’t like to work with. 

Chuck tells us it’s up to us who we sell to, in the end, and we always have the right to refuse any customer that makes us uncomfortable. However, we’re incentivized not to kick out the customers. We’d be refusing commission along with the person. The population visiting the store, or the “custies” as Brittney calls them, are getting more interesting as we head into back to school times, and as well my commission is growing with the new traffic they bring. There are events for prospective students and parents of these and current students at UC Berkeley. Many of the fathers leave their kids with their mothers and rush to Headz during their breaks from these events. We rarely see any of the mothers.

These dads break the rules more than any other demographic.

They are not in the drug culture anymore, if they ever were. They are just drawn here because of the memories of their college years and the tales they’ve heard of how easy it is to score weed in Berkeley. Some of them have heard that Headz stands out from the rest of the head shops in this part of Berkeley because of our all-female retail employees. They do not expect to be kicked out of the store by a girl their daughter’s age for saying “bong”.

We do say “You mean water pipe” up to three times before kicking anyone out. If they can’t understand that that’s what they have to say from our not so subtle suggestions – then they get ejected. Older men have the most difficulty listening to and understanding the information coming from younger women, so even though these are the most clean cut, have the biggest wallets, and are usually genuinely well-meaning, and even though these are the least likely to be a narc trying to trip us up, these are yet the ones that get kicked out of our store the most frequently. 

I talk to the people working at Jabberwock and they tell me that in their store it’s the deadbeats they have to eject.

People stealing. Homeless people looking for anything free. They even had someone take a piss in their store and it took them months to get the stink out of the carpet. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t keep a clean shop, I see that the design of Headz is very much geared towards the frat and sorority crowd, and trying hard to stay away from the street person/deadbeat crowd who are drawn in by hippie-targeted marketing. I’m glad for our sterile design. I’m hoping it means I’ll get to sell a Volcano.

We get people in all the time looking for higher quality incense than we carry, or a larger selection of incense holders, or hemp wick, or essential oils, or any other number of things that a head shop in Berkeley should carry. We don’t. I have to send them across the street, or around the corner to another shop that doesn’t specialize in paraphernalia but has all the hippie accoutrements.

I always find it ironic how frustrated the hippies get when I don’t have the product that they are looking to consume.

To Be Continued…

(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


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