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My History of Idiocy

My name is Joe Plummer. I’m not a clinical psychologist or an MD with an Ivy League education. I’m simply a man who over a period of many years grew tired of my life and my apparent inability to effectively change it. Substances (this includes alcohol) had become a primary source of avoidable problems and pain. Through trial and error I eventually realized any contact with them brought a predictable result: more problems and pain. Although this was easy enough to see, the issue of how to actually tackle the problem was not.

My drug use began at what many would consider a very young age. I was 9 years old when my babysitter and her older brother first introduced me to marijuana. They were probably 13 and 16 (respectively) and were very much into the teenage “drug lifestyle.” As a result, I learned fast what “partying” was all about from the two of them and their older friends. I suppose you could say, because there were no others, they became my role models. (Not a good choice on my part -but hey, we all make mistakes, right?)

Because nobody had ever warned me about drugs and alcohol (not many knew the dangers themselves back then, let alone knew enough to warn a 9 year old) I never questioned a thing my new role models taught me. Drugs were what cool people did and I was cool! I lived and breathed this new and exciting way of life as fully as I could. Although my drug of choice was marijuana, I experimented with other drugs like hash, opium, speed, acid, and cocaine. Drinking was also a big part of the equation but again, pot was what I used most.

At the time (and even now) everyone looked at marijuana as basically a “harmless / passive” drug. I guess to some extent that observation is true. Unfortunately, when words like “responsibility” or “moderation” haven’t even entered your vocabulary (let alone become concepts you actually understand) pot can easily turn you into a passive person interested in little more than getting high. I spent so much of my time high, I probably didn’t make a sensible decision from age 9 until I was finally incarcerated at age 15. (It’s no mystery you can make mistakes while under the influence of drugs and alcohol and I made too many to list.)

Within a few months of making my new lifestyle choice, I began stealing. It was nothing major; but a step in the wrong direction nonetheless. My older friends would distract the owner at the local wine store while I lifted a bottle (or two) of MD 20/20. After getting literally “puke drunk,” we’d go out and do all kinds of illegal stuff like break into cars, vandalize, etc.

I’m pretty sure my first felony (breaking and entering) was committed in the winter of 1980. I was 10 at the time and my Elementary School (Holly Lane) used to keep a money box in the office. My best friend (Russell) and I figured it had to have at least $20 in it and in those days, that would have bought us a dime bag of pretty good pot. So, being the slick dudes we thought we were, we planned our heist.

Russell insisted he could steal a key from the Janitor. I had my doubts but a couple days later, he’d managed to do just that. All that was left for us to do: Meet up under the Dover Center / Westown Boulevard bridge at 9:30pm, make our way to the school and collect our loot. And that’s exactly what we did…sort of.

Up until the last minute, everything had gone as planned: Russell snuck out of his house without getting caught, we’d managed our mile long walk without being spotted by the police, the key worked like a charm and we’d made our way into the school. It wasn’t until we were right in front of the school office that we hit a snag. For some reason, there were a bunch of people in the gymnasium and the gymnasium just so happened to be directly across from the office. This wouldn’t have been too big of a problem except the school office was made of glass walls. If somebody came out of the gym, they’d see us for sure.

As you might imagine, things can get a little scary when you’re doing something you KNOW you’re not supposed to. For instance, stuffing a bottle of wine down your pants while your friends distract the large bearded man at the counter is a bit nerve-racking. (It’s an interesting combination of excitement and fear; excitement that you’re going to get what you want, a bottle of wine and a good time, and fear that you’re going to get caught.) Every time I walked out the front door of that wine store, my mind raced at the thought of hearing: “Hey, hold it right there!”

Well, whatever anxiety stealing wine caused me; suffice to say I was now feeling something 5 times greater. Here we’ve illegally entered a building only to realize it was crawling with adults. Standing in the middle of a long, wide and empty hallway, our predicament could not have been clearer: If somebody walked out of the gym (while we were standing in the hallway) we’d be seen; we’d be busted. If somebody walked out of the gym while we were in the office, we’d be seen; we’d be busted. After having performed this calculation, the little voice in the back of our heads undoubtedly screamed: “It’s not too late to turn around and head home…you can still do the right thing.” ...We were soon headed for the office.

I’d watched teachers make change more than a dozen times so I had a pretty good idea where to find what we’d come for. Russell took the left row of cabinets, I took the right. First drawer; nothing, second drawer; nope, third drawer; bingo! ----->Continue to page 2