I have a hard time making decisions, it’s something I’ve always struggled with. I weigh the good and the bad with every option, and try to see the consequences of whatever I chose. I imagine how my life would be affected if I went with option A, instead of B and vice versa. Which one would make me happier? Which one would leave my life more fulfilled? It’s a rigorous trial process and doesn’t happen quickly meaning I take a frustrating amount of time to make decisions, even for the small ones. I suppose my mind’s goal is to find the safest, most life prolonging option.
Which is great for disarming bombs or choosing your new cell phone carrier, but it leaves servers tapping their foots when they ask me if I want sausage or bacon with my breakfast.
“That’s a great question,” I might tell them. “Do I want something crispy and salty? Or does it feel like more of a greasy and savory kind of day?”
And they might respond with, “Frankly, kid, I couldn’t care less. Just tell me what button to press so I can do my freaking job and move on with my life.”
It’s the reason I dislike shopping for clothes or decorations for my house; those decisions linger with me longer than a choice between a bean and cheese burrito or a cheese and bean burrito. Regret, or rather the fear of it, dictates decisions I make on a daily basis. Would I be happier if I had bought the blue shirt instead of the purple one? How would my life be different? How does color affect a cat’s temper? For better or worse, it’s a part of my life I don’t think I’ll ever change.
But in the City of Ashland, I’m not alone with my fearful, crippling indecisiveness.
I went to a dispensary for the first time this week. Marijuana has been legal to sell for a few months now, but I haven’t built up the courage to enter one of the many dispensaries that have shown up. Partly because I don’t really have a need to go, but mostly because I’m terrified of who might be in there. You have a higher chance of running into someone you know than a linebacker does a blind, wheelchair-bound running back. And as a substitute teacher certain lifestyles are frowned upon, even in a town as odd as Ashland. Truthfully, I don’t think most people would care, but, again, I terrified of regret and how image may affect what people think of me.
I’m tempted to tell you I wasn’t there to buy weed, but that’s probably about as effective as a teenager talking their parents down after they found their stash by saying they were “holding it for a friend.” Honestly, I wanted to see what goes on behind the Bob Marley postered doors. Oregon has passed a law legalizing the drug widely used in the state, much like the 21st amendment repealed the prohibition of alcohol in the United States. I wanted to enter a dispensary to feel what it was like to be in a speak-easy after the repealing of the 18th amendment. What kind of people would be working counter? How many white-people-dreads would I see in the waiting room? What kind of strains would be for sale? Would it smell like the inside of a skunk’s gym bag? How many words per minute would the dead-heads be able to speak? Would there be snacks in the waiting room, ready to cater to munchy starved customers? Most importantly, what would the customer be like?
So when a friend came into town and said he needed to stop by a dispensary, I jumped at the opportunity to see a new piece of American culture.
The one he chose was one that was built out of an old house. It sits right off the main road that cuts through Ashland. A massive pot leaf hung in the window, and when I push open the door I’m greeted with the easy tempo of reggae. Surprisingly, it smelled like new-house mixed with IKEA air fresheners. It was clean and orderly. Small, but efficient. The other customer there was wearing a collared shirt and a tie, most likely on his way home from work. I’d be lying if I said I was a little disappointed it wasn’t living up to the culture’s stereotypes.
The receptionist, a young woman, probably a student at SOU, takes our ID’s, scans them then has us wait in the family-room-made-waiting-room. The space is tiny, making it anything but private. Conversations in the room over about strain types can be heard clearly as the employee educates the well-dressed customer.
“That’s sour diesel.” The weed-tender says to his customer. “If you’re looking for something to just chill on the couch, that one’s a good one.”
“I’m not looking for something to knock me out,” the customer says.
“You’ll want the Obama Kush then. This one is great for getting chores done, cleaning the house and staying motivated.”
As someone who has a hard time moving dirty laundry from their body to the hamper two feet away, I feel a pang of skepticism. If I could smoke anything and be motivated to clean a dirty bathroom, I’d drop everything I was doing and go buy the complete discographies of Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg, put that shit on repeat, smoke then bleach my entire house.
As we wait, another customer enters and a small knowing smile rises from the corners of my mouth.
I smile because he’s the physical manifestation of an Ashlander. He wears clothes of mismatched colors, some dark, some migraine-inducing vibrant. They hang loosely on him and have the look of being hand stitched from fabric taken from an old couch abandoned on a street corner. Hanging from his shoulder is a handmade bag of similar material, no doubt carrying various crystals or dream-catchers. He’s in the advanced stages of balding; his forehead has waged a winning war against his graying hair. What’s left of his hair has been poorly dreaded leaving matted clumps of differing size, some as large as a Great Dane’s turd, others small and spindly like tangled headphone wires. They hang loosely like a menagerie of dingleberries. He’s attempting to look free, wild and perhaps one with nature. Instead he looks like someone who uses a cowpie as a pillow.
“Welcome!” The young receptionist says. “What can I get you today?”
The man gives her a long smile a few seconds longer than customary then pauses for another moment to look at the surroundings of the small dispensary. “What do you guys have?”
“We have a lot. What are you looking for?”
He makes his way to her table, “Why don’t you tell me?” giving her another easy smile.
The girl thinks for a second, then picks up the thread of her saleswoman technique. “Well, it depends really. Are you looking for something to smoke? Do you have your medical card? We have a lot of alternatives if you do.”
“What are the alternatives?”
“We have butter, wax, some edibles… did you say you had your card?”
“Wax? What’s wax?”
“It’s simply a term for describing it’s consistency. It’s used in the same way as butter an—“
“Do you use it for candles?” the man says.
“No, it’s just a way of describing its consistency,” she says again. “I’d need to see your—“
“Oh, so it’s for your skin.”
The girl stops for a moment, reevaluating her approach to explaining this. “You ingest it, it’s not a candle or anything. Think of it this way: it’s just thicker butter.”
The man cocks his head, “but why call it wax then?”
She throws her hands to her sides, “I’m not sure.”
The man nods again, looking pensively back down at the desk. The receptionist waits for him to say something. When he doesn’t she speaks up again.
“So… have you made any decisions about what you want?”
The hippy laughs, his great tangles shaking like tassels hanging from a stripper’s nipple. “I’m afraid that’s not a decision I can make.” There’s a rising inflection with the end of the sentence, so the receptionist waits for him to continue. He doesn’t.
“I’m sorry?” She says.
“I said, ‘that’s not a decision I can make.”
“Who makes it then?”
He smiles at her because she’s fallen into his trap. Finding a true Ashlander is like finding the vegetarian or someone who’s gluten free in the room: they’ll tell you and when they do, they think they’re more alluring than C.S. Lewis sitting by the fire in the dead of winter, reading the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. They have a story to tell and, similar to hitmen, they wont stop until the job is done.
“Well, it’s kind of a long…” he starts, looking around to make sure there’s no line forming behind him. “Ah, heck, you don’t have anyone waiting, I guess we have time to explain it.”
I spy her smile die on her lips ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly. It’s changed from a genuine smile, to a service-smile. It’s the smile of someone who knows their time has come: they’ve found the crazy customer who won’t stop talking because they assume their pleasantry doesn’t stem from the fact that it’s in their job description. And so, she smiled back at him somewhat bitterly, grinning at a firing squad about to send her into her death throes.
My friend’s name is called, he goes up to the clerk and to make his purchase.
“It depends on the roll.” The dread-crowned man says.
The man reaches into his couch-canvas sack and pulls out a pair of dice. They’re not normal, cube-shaped dice; instead they have an queer number of sides, their corners protruding out at sharp angles.
“It depends on what I roll. You see, there’s eight sides on this dice.” He points to the larger of the two dice. “Each symbol repeated twice, and the symbols representing the four elements, of course.” He says it with the same certainty someone might say the earth is round, fire is hot or sloths are slow. “Wind, water, fire, and earth.” Each symbol he points to as he says the name.
“Depending on what I roll here, and how it coincides with the season outside…”
“Oh, cool!” The girl says. She’s moved from questioning indifference to compliance fueled compliments, hoping to get the man to move on now that she’s already given his insanity the thumbs up in her book. She’s fulfilled whatever part of him that needs affirmation.
“And then this dice, has the two other elements found in humans…” he pauses and waits for her to provide the obvious answer. When she doesn’t, he educates her, not without reluctance. “Yin and Yang.”
“Ahh…” she says.
It’s a four sided dice, Yin and Yang repeat themselves twice.
“That’s cool. So what do—“
“I’m not done.” He rolls the dice for her. “Depending on what I roll here—“ he points to the eight sided dice “—with earth’s elements, and how it coincides with the season outside is one meaning. And what I roll here—“ gesturing to the Yin and Yang dice “—with the human element and how it coincides with the season of my heart. I make a decision.” His hand rests on his heart, a smile still on his face. I look around the room, trying to spot a false wall that might house a hidden camera or a fake plant with a microphone nestled between its ferns.
It seems like an awful lot of work to simply decide if you’re smoking weed with the name Sparkle Unicorn Dust or Powdered Hair Piece, but then again, I’ve never had to chose which oddly named weed to buy.
When she doesn’t respond, he explains it in laymen’s terms. “Elements with the season of the earth, Yin and Yang with the season of my Heart.”
She makes an Ohhh… gesture with her mouth and nods her head as if finally understanding some complex concept.
“Ready to go?” my friend says, breaking me from my reverie.
“Yeah.” I respond.
“You see how I rolled Fire here? Well, since it’s winter that means…” The man is pointing down at his dice.
I get up to leave and the receptionist makes eye contact with my friend and I. Her eyes are that of a cornered animal. She smiles, but it is forced. We leave her as the man is beginning to explain how one can know the meaning of their heart’s season.
I thought about the decisions I have a hard time making. Would the dice roll help me? Certainly, part of it would.
Most importantly, how would it work in one of the most common human dilemmas we all face: salad or fries?
If it were me, I’d roll the dice, and look to the season outside: it’s winter, which means I need to fatten up. Fries. Summer season? Let go, its vacation time, order the fries. Spring? Time for some cleaning of my diet, but I’ll just get one last cauldron of fries. Fall: better get a head start on my winter weight; fries.Then I’d roll the dice and listen to the season of my heart: Fries. It seems to me it’s less of a technique for making decisions and more of a demonstration of Confirmation Bias: I’m always going to order fries, person and worldly seasons be damned.
And then there’s the dilemma of living a life decisionless. This man goes through his entire day, probably dresses himself, all by the whim and will of the probability of his dice; since he didn’t seem drunk, that’s the only explanation I can find for his clothing choice. He’s probably chronically late, as he has to roll for every decision. What time should he leave? Does he use GPS or does he try to find the place by memory? Should he get in the right lane or the left lane? What speed should he drive at? This police officer seems pretty adamant and hasn’t stopped following him with his lights on for the last four miles, should he pull over or live dangerously? When the officer asks if he has any fire arms, should he tell him the truth that he doesn’t or should he tell him there’s a voice activatable bomb in the glove compartment, the detonation phrases are “Please step out of the vehicle,” “You’re under arrest,” and “Please stop rolling those dice.”
I imagine a line of cars honking behind him as he sits at a green light.
“Just a minute!” he shouts out the window, “I need to know if the dice say I should go left or right!”
While there is something nice about the prospect of not having to choose, it still feels hollow. It’d be great to not have to decide which shirt to buy or what side to have with my breakfast, but then again life is about decisions. Though I’m not great at making them, at least I make them.
Whether it’s a product of the rolling dice or the season of his heart, some part of his lifestyle told him that his style was a good idea. Making me wonder on how sound his decision process really was. Perhaps it’s time to be more confident with my indecisiveness, to embrace it. Sure it makes things difficult for those that have to work with me, but least I don’t have a curtain of dingleberry dreads hanging from my scalp. As far as I’m concerned, I’m quite alright with that trade-off.