So the other morning, I was riding around (and getting it) with a friend of mine when I noticed a young man – probably 16 or 17 years old – strolling down the street with a suspicious confidence about him. I remember telling my friend, “That kid is selling dope. There is no other reason for him to be bouncing around out here this early on the weekend.”

She laughed me off, and as she did, we stopped at a red light and observed him talking to a skittish older gentleman outside of a corner market on Lombard. Before I could finish painting my disgustingly stereotypical allegations, the two made an awkward split and my friend offered a story of her own: “I’ll bet that kid just wants a blunt paper and he’s trying to get that old dude to buy it for him.”

Hmmm… Not a bad assumption. I went along with it and decided that I liked her equally-illegal-yet-far-more-acceptable account of current happenings better than the belligerently racist story I had surmised about the bummy old man and the young Black boy with the swaggy gait on the corner. As the light turned green, we crossed Lombard and turned into the gas station, leaving our conversation about the suspicious duo behind us.

Since she was paying cash and I’m always a gentleman, I agreed to walk the gas money inside to the counter. On my way back to the car, I noticed the older fellow from moments earlier crossing the street and looking in my direction. With my new story in tow, I concluded that the store across the street must not have had the tobacco product he wanted, so he was coming to see if they had it here. Duh, that makes sense right? But as I got closer to the car, he called out to me, “Hey mayne! Do you have 60 cents?”

Almost immediately, the gas attendant yelled at the haggardly beggar to “get outta here”, and for some reason, I felt offended by the angry-looking man’s aggressive dismissal of the hobo. Perhaps his behavior triggered some sort of momentary guilt in me regarding my own earlier assumption that the man was a crackhead – I’m not really sure – but in any case, I gestured for the gas attendant to chill. Truth be told, I had 65 cents jangling in my pocket and I had no interest in carrying it around all day. So I said eff it, met the man halfway, and gave him the 65 cents in my pocket. As I handed him the change he said to me, “Thank you, I’m just tryna catch this bus.”

“No problem. Good luck.” I replied, pleased to have overcome my judgmental ways and complete a good deed so early in the morning. But when I looked back over my shoulder, my worst fear was confirmed. No, there wasn’t a CNN poll showing Romney leading in the campaign race; rather, the recipient of my pocket change had shuffled himself back across the street and proceeded to engage in what might have been the single-most obvious drug transaction in the history of Earth. Here’s how it went down: Young Man was at the bus stop and had a soft drink container on the bench. Old Man sprinted up to him, looked at him, and then slowly put the change on the cup. Young Man then acknowledged Old Man and they shook hands for far too long before Old Man took something from Young Man’s hand. Old Man scurried around the corner with a stupid look on his face.

Wow… I just bought a dude some crack. That’s that sh– I don’t like. I looked back at the gas attendant, shaking his head as he walked inside. But this made me wonder, did dude really buy crack with 65 cents? Is that even possible? Was dude short 60 cents and the dealer said he’d wait for him to hustle it up? Did he forget the delivery fee? Gratuity? How much does crack even cost? Is it cheap like weed where you can get some for $5 or $10? Or does it cost $300 like meth does on Breaking Bad? Do people even buy crack anymore? Or was he addicted to some crazy drug I’ve never seen in action like bath salts? Maybe the kid was selling his mom’s prescription medications?

Truth be told, I’d be just fine if I never learned the answers to any of these questions. I’m too damn old to be learning the ins and outs of the 2012 street drug market, but one thing became clear to me: I do know a crackhead – and a crack dealer – when I see one. My instincts aren’t always PC, but they are usually right.

Fast forward to yesterday morning… On my way to the gym, I stopped at 7-11 for a coffee and apple fritter. (Note: this is terrible pre-workout food which would never make its way to my Instagram feed). As I exited the convenience store, a tall goofily dressed man asked me very politely, “Excuse me bro, do you think I could maybe panhandle a few dollars from you?”

I’ll let you guess my response.

Live from the North,

Mac Smiff