I had the pleasure last night of meeting the Worlds Worst Drug Dealer
A little context: It is 7:45pm Friday evening, St Andrews Square, Edinburgh. I’m heading to catch the last bus home (oh yeah. My life is rock & roll.) Liz & I have spotted some sunshine for the first time in 4 or 5 days and we’re standing outside Louis Vuitton, faces pointed towards some actual beams of light, being fairly cynical, laughing, being ourselves. Yes, we have been on the Cab Sauv, rather successfully, and have spent most of the evening putting the world to rights. In short – it has been a brilliant night.
And this wee, hoodied, hip-rolling, pants-showing guy comes wandering up to us and says, in the MOST extraordinary I’m-from-da-hood-proper-London-me accent (forgive the phonetics here):
“Ekx uuuzzz meee laydeeez. Bu’ can ah interet’st yooou in sum weeeeeeeed”
Only he sounded a lot Scottish.
Now at this point, I guess we had choices. We could have politely said “No. Thank you for your generous offer, but we must decline”
We could equally have been a bit uncomfortable and looked at the floor and wished him elsewhere – muttering horrified “No” and hoping he carried on his way.
Did I mention we’d had wine?
This guy looked about 12. He’s got that almost-blue paleness about him which can be so quintessentially Scottish. He’s carrying the malevolence of a marshmallow. He’s puffed up and moving about in front of us with REALLY crazy boxer shorts showing and is, frankly, fascinating.
I can’t help myself:
Me: Is that your genuine accent? Where are you FROM?
(oh God. I sound like my mum)
Him: Yeah Man. I’m from Peckham, ain’t I?
Me: You’re SO not from Peckham… that accent’s all over the shop. Where are you ACTUALLY from?
Him: (now looking a bit uncertain) Ah AM. Ah’m from Peckham. Ah’m jist up ‘ere tryin’ to dooooo sum deals man. Then ah cannn gowww home.
Liz: (warming to the theme): Would that be via Leith?
Him: (Sort of laughing) Nah nah nah. I’m from London city. Good and truuuuu.
Me: (frowning) No you’re not. You look Scottish, You sound Scottish….. Are you Scottish?
Him: (now looking a bit peeved) Do yoooo whaaaannnt sum weeeed or not
Liz: Not, I think.
Me: (now fully warming to the theme) You do realise you’re trying to sell weed to two middle-classed women outside Louis Vuitton in broad daylight? Really? You can’t be doing very good business. I can’t image we’re your target market….How are sales doing?
At this point he crumbled. In a perfect, broad Scottish accent he said:
“Sales are shite. I need to up ma game, man.”
And the three of us started talking. Liz got maternal and asked him why was he selling drugs for Christ sakes and I was giving him grief about his shocking wannabe accent. As ever my rally cry was “you have to speak with your own voice. Why are you pretending to be someone you are not?”
His Auntie sat him down a few days a go and told him he had two paths in front of him – one was a good path and he could get a job, have family – live a life. The other was a bad path – selling drugs, probably ending up in jail. He said he wanted to choose the good path, but there are no jobs; he’s already been to prison and now he feels stuck. He wants to make his Auntie proud… but he wants money and status too… it’s hard.
His name is Mark. He’s 19 years old and he has some tough choices to make.
Liz and I were clear with him: he’s not cut out to sell drugs. He’s a guy who has potential – but he shouldn’t ever try to be an impressionist. (We suggested acting might not be his thing, either.) We told him to go speak to his auntie and do something – anything – else
OK, not the most practical intervention ever; but at least we got to talk to him as a person and that was, in the end, very cool.
So the Worlds Worst Drug Dealer is on my mind this morning as I sip my morning cuppa and reflect on the fact I’ve never had to make the choices he has. I wish him well and I kind of hope his sales were terrible last night and that, when he does up his game, it’s under the watchful eye of his Auntie, not his Boss.