The Volvo Drug Deal

I think if you live in a city you’re going to eventually see a drug deal. Just like if you live in the quiet and the solitude of a northern region of the United States, you’re going to eventually see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Like the drug deal, you may not know what the Northern Lights are at first. The Northern Lights may scare you. The drug deal may confuse you. In the end, they will both be a mystery to you that can be explained by a couple things you may or may not pay attention to or understand very well – you know, stuff from school – science and economics.

We’ve lived in the same house for twelve years. We’re on a quiet street in Minneapolis, only a scant 7 blocks from an old first ring suburb – so that really means it’s just part of the city. We’re a couple blocks off a fairly busy street that runs north and south with a lot of commuter traffic in and out of the city during the work week. One Wednesday around 1 pm I was holding our then 6 month old, doing my daddy dance where I walk around trying to keep her from crying. She had polished off her bottle and was expecting mom home any second for more of the real deal. So, I’m waltzing around trying to keep my milk addicted baby calm. One false move on my part and she could go off. No telling what a baby jonesing for the sweet white substance can do. Best to keep moving. Talk quietly to her and hold her until she can get her fix.

As I’m carrying her around the living room I spot my city aurora borealis. We’re on a corner lot, so out the dining room window I have a view of the street that goes by our house east and west. When I look out the window I see a low riding black Cadillac pull up across the street. A few seconds later a white Volvo station wagon pulls up behind the Cadillac. There is an African-American gentleman in the Cadillac and a Caucasian gentleman in the Volvo. Now, let me stop here for a moment, because life it too busy for me to keep typing African-American and Caucasian. I’m white so I could have probably skipped Caucasian and gone right into Whitey. But, as a semi-educated White fellow it is also my duty to first acknowledge and say “African-American” before moving on to describe someone as “Black” in the next sentence or paragraph. I’m fine with that. It’s a very common convention that you find everywhere from the evening news to NAACP meetings. You see, African-American people also happen to be busy and don’t have time to keep saying African-American every time they just want to get the word “Black” out there. There’s no disrespect, only time constraints. To be honest, I don’t really know for sure the Black guy in the car was African-American. He could easily have been of South American or Haiti descent.

So the black guy’s got the black car and the honky’s got the white car. The honky cracker then gets into the black car. Now we’re talking ebony and ivory. I sense the harmony. These guys must be friends. Awww, isn’t that great. The Volvo station wagon guy and the low rider Cadillac guy are going to share lunch together or reminisce about old times. I’m guessing they were best friends back in grade school and they had each others’ backs. Way before the time when one knew he would want a Cadillac and the other knew he would want a Volvo. They are both super safe cars, so my imaginary hat was off to both of them for their choices.

Wait a second. Speaking of choices, I start to consider my choice of believing these guys to be old long-lost friends who happened to pull over on a quiet side street to get caught up. I knew instantly that this wasn’t an aurora borealis in the city. This was a drug deal. Just then, the guys in the car get looking jumpy like two rabbits (if rabbits exchanged money for drugs). I’m trying to keep my baby quiet and calm while standing as close to my window as possible and looking as mean as possible, hoping they’ll notice me. It’s fairly difficult to look mean while talking baby talk and cooing. All of a sudden, the car drives into the nearest alley and around the corner. A second later Cynthia walks in the door.

She immediately says, “There’s a drug deal going on out there.”

I say I know and explain how it wasn’t up to me. Neither one of those gentlemen asked for my input on the situation at any time. I realized that they had moved off because Cynthia was staring them down as she came in the back from the garage. I would like to believe that I got them scared and looking like rabbits, but I know that can’t be the truth. Cynthia is a high school teacher and can launch a serious teacher glare like a grenade, at the drop of a hat. This isn’t the kind of teacher glare that someone in safe, test score excelling schools might use on a kid to get gum to drop frm his mouth. Her stare comes from taking pot pipes from kids, breaking up gang fueled fights and telling kids they made the right choice not to kill someone as an initiation. My stare only contains images of me as a twelve-year-old doing Karate moves against fictitious characters. These fictitious characters are not intended to be dangerous – to me.

But my blood is boiling as I hand over the baby to Cynthia and head out the door. She asks what I’m going to do. Funny. My brain is asking my legs and briskly swinging arms the same question. Only my brain seems more afraid in its questioning. When I get outside, I see that gringo’s Volvo is still sitting there. They went down the alley to escape any license plate collecting eyes. This gives me an idea. I run and get a paper and pen and come back out and take down the license of the Volvo. Next, I go back to my side of the street. But then I quickly go back and look in the car to see what kind of information I can discern from the interior of the Volvo. I see a drill driver and a bag of tools and some scraps of wood. Round eyes must be a handy man or carpenter, I presume.

I go back to my side of the street and stand and wait. He’ll be coming back to get his car and I’ll be waiting. Cynthia comes outside and asks what I’m doing. I tell her I’m waiting for the Volvo boy to come back. Once again, she asks me, “Then what?” Once again, my brain has already asked my stomach that question. No part of my body will give my brain an answer. No part of my body wants to talk to the brain, for fear that braino will try to change the course of action. Suddenly, the white devil appears from the alley. He walks quickly to his car. I know he sees me, but he doesn’t look up. I’m trying to think of something to say. The problem is that my brain has not been briefed properly by the rest of the body. My brain orders a statement and my stupid mouth just says it.

“What, are you high or something?” says my mouth. The rest of the body goes limp with sadness. That’s all it’s going to be? That’s it? Nothing biting or edgy? Nothing about my neighborhood? You call yourself the brain and all you offer up is a quote from 3rd grade history teacher, Mr. Smith. “Brain, what, are you high or something?”  Then he’s in his white Volvo steed and off at a slow pace to avoid getting stopped for speeding or any other offense. As long as he can drive the right speed and obey the rules of the road whitey won’t get picked up for anything else. The man’s not going to stop the man for driving like the man.

My brain wants to make amends to the rest of the body, so I go in the house with the license number and call the sad step cousin of 911 – that’s 311. That’s for finding out about fun things to do in the city or to ask who to report something like this instance to. I get a number and call the police and file a complaint. She’s not interested in the Volvo’s plate and ask if I have the other plate. I tell her I don’t. I tell her these guys are like ebony and ivory. They have a symbiotic relationship (if clown fish and anemones exchanged money for drugs). No dice. She took my name. I’m not sure what good that does. Maybe they’re keeping a record of crybabies to train the less prestigious 311 operators.

When I got off the phone I decided to call my sister. She works for the DNR and this is totally not in her jurisdiction, but I believe she has checked out people when necessary through some database (if any of my sister’s employers read this story, please understand that I’ve made up this part for the story). Actually, it’s true. My sister can look up license plates. I tell Cynthia that I want to her to look up a plate for me and I’ll call that goy lima-bean with the Volvo and I’ll just put a little scare into him. You know, pretend to be an official, or something that I’ll come up with on the spur of the moment. A’la Rockford Files. I totally loved when Jim Rockford made up business cards in his car. (Little known fact: 22% of his undercover plans went wrong because of Angel sweating too much).

Anyway, my sister wouldn’t help me because Cynthia got to her on the other line and told her I was going to call this guy. Cynthia was worried about this guy extracting revenge up me and our family (more so, the family). I tried to explain to Cynthia and now my sister, that I’m not going off the deep end here. I told them how unlikely it was that this dogface shine was going to come back and try to pop  a cap in my buttock. He would need to find time between getting high, building a bookshelf and listening to old episodes of “The Splendid Table” on NPR.

So, as Volvo Whitey orbits around in a third or fourth ring suburb far out of my reach, I’ll await for the next time we can trek north and I can see the aurora borealis. I know where the light comes from and how it’s reflected. It’s all very straight forward – It’s science. The problem with Economics is that people have to participate in and be a part of that on many different levels, that need to include social (no matter what the most erudite economist says). When some people are held accountable and others are not in any market system, there’s a fine line between a Laffer Curve and just a joke.

More importantly, when a guy ends a story referencing an economic device that measures how raised or lowered taxes affect the economy just because it is called the “Laffer Curve”, the reader is not obligated to Laugh. If you continue to say “Laffer Curve” to yourself over and over, it will eventually become funny and you don’t really need me here for that. Have fun.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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