The Comical Misadventures of a Rambling Mind


I barely talk about my job, but this is a story I can't pass up.

As you might know, as part of my job I talk with high school kids about their smoking habits, or the lack thereof. One of the studies requires smoking teens to complete a short survey. We were hoping to get enough kids while they were still in school, but that didn't happen. So now we are taking to the streets to find smoking teenagers. Which is difficult to do. We've spent the better business part of two days looking for teens with little luck.

As we drove, and walked, around town we discussed some of the reasons why weren't finding kids. Teens don't hang out on the streets, sitting on corners, watching traffic? Those teenagers who are smokers also use other drugs/alcohol which you most likely wouldn't do while hanging around in public places? Teens don't smoke as much as the study was predicting?

I don't know the answer. I do know that our desperation in finding teenagers led us to get surveys any way we could.

Untitled-1We stopped by a local park one afternoon and found a couple cars full of teenagers. As we approached them, I thought, "we must look like undercover cops." I was even accused of being one. I certainly look like an adult, and have for a while. My other two coworkers looked college-aged. While we certainly don't look unapproachable, we don't look like the type of people who'd just be sitting around in a park with nothing to do.

Well, these kids started out suspicious, but quickly warmed up to the idea of a survey when they realized they could earn a gift card out of it. One kid was especially eager to take the survey. He was a good helper in recruiting other people at the park in taking the survey as well. That's when I first noticed something odd. Other than the group of kids that we first found, there were a lot of cars with just one or two people in them. Just sitting there... Even more single occupant cars would drive through the park.

A coworker asked me if I thought it was unusual. I told her yes and she proceeded to turn to the kids and ask. "Do you know that guy," pointing in the direction of one of the cars. The kids all shook their heads. "Do you think it's odd he's just hanging out by himself?" The kids really didn't respond to that at all.

During these surveys it's not uncommon to have kids ask us if we smoke. Depending on the group, some are indignant when I say I don't. Others will lament that they shouldn't have started. So the reaction is mixed. At this time in the park a kid asked and we said no. He said that he didn't smoke cigarettes. Instead, he uses meth. A coworker let out a surprised, "What!?" and he just laughed, "I'm kidding. I'm kidding."

Maybe he was, or maybe he wasn't. Pretty soon a UHaul truck pulled up and stopped a ways back from the rest of the cars in the park. One by one someone would get out of their vehicle and go talk to the guy in the UHaul truck. They'd stand there and talk for a moment and then climb back in there car and drive away.

This is when it hit... "Um, [Coworker], I think we stumbled into a drug ring," I said.

Now, I'm not completely naive. I will admit a certain trust that I have in overall situations until shown otherwise. In this case, I trusted that people wouldn't openly be using and distributing drugs in a park in the middle of town in broad daylight on a weekday afternoon. I wouldn't say it was naive. I would say I was just wrong.

Already thinking we looked like vice cops, this didn't help me overcome my awkwardness in approaching people to take a stupid survey.

Needless to say, we collected the remaining surveys and left, in case anything happened. So if you're ever in town, I can point you in the right direction to score a dime bag.

I find it my job to be somewhat ironic, in the Alanis use of the word. When I talk to high school kids about what my job is about people typically have one of several typical reactions. They either 1) admit they smoke and ask how they can do the survey; 2) sheepishly admit they smoke only after someone has ratted them out; 3) voiciferously deny smoking but quickly point out the nearby friend that does. (See #2).

When I tell someone who would not be considered for the study I am the one to have the odd reaction. I end up being the defensive one. "This is what I do, but I don't care if you smoke or not." Do I care about the overall health? Well, obviously, sure. But am I going to get on a soapbox and tell them day in and day out? No. That's just not me.

I find the presumptive stigma to be entertaining. Smokers thinking that they are going to get an earful for saying they smoke. While I think I'm going to get a freedom speech when I tell people I try and get kids to quit smoking. Is that irony?

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I posted this @ 6/11/2007 03:55:00 PM.............Need a link?..........

I'm a 30-something student of human nature. A music-lovin', groove-shakin', laugh-inducin', dish-cookin', gossip-slingin', type of guy. This is my diary of sorts...

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