Granny and the den of iniquity

I was extremely uncomfortable but I couldn't place why.

I had a three-week assignment to take testimony of some high-profile criminals in The Hague. Everything was provided for me, from the airline tickets to the short-term lease of a small apartment where I could produce my work at night. Ari stayed behind to manage the household - well, attempt to manage the household. I worked there with a team of people I had never met before, the production people who printed, translated, copied and bound the transcripts of proceedings. A young man from London was assigned to pick me up at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and take me to my apartment. I was grateful, as it was nearing midnight. He was probably no older than 30. He had stocked my fridge, he said. He had - with the stuff a single man might eat. Ah well. I dined on potato chips, a length of French bread, a few slices of salami and a beer. Not my favorites, but then beggars can't be choosers. I think it had probably come from his own kitchen, as he also left not one, but two fresh eggs in a bowl. There was one rather important item no one had remembered, but years of traveling for my dinner has taught me to be prepared for all eventualities. The apartment had no toilet paper. I had arrived the weekend before work started. I used the time to get my bearings. I spotted a castle, so I walked over there. It wasn't a castle, but a mall. I purchased a coffee cup for the sparse apartment, something I couldn't do without. I spent the next day organizing my things and contemplating getting groceries up the 50 circular steps to my apartment. Tom anticipated this. He called to tell me how to get to the nearest supermarket. He asked if I played Sudoku, and invited me to come to a club where I could join him if I got lonely, even if I didn't play. So I began my rather Spartan life, three weeks without Ari carrying the heavy stuff. I knew also that two things could happen: I could fall off the stairs and break my legs, or leave Holland with a somewhat more toned backside. On the first Sunday afternoon the phone rang. It was Tom. "It must be terribly lonely for you, Carm, without your family. Come join me for a coffee at the Game Club." These calls are traps, actually. Do I offend my colleague, or do I go? Two bad choices. I was quite content, actually, having Skyped my husband regularly, even several times a day. I had bought a camera for Ari's computer, and my laptop had one built in. I could see if he was doing his chores and monitor if he was getting enough sleep and enough to eat. Of course, I shouldn't have worried; Ari seemed to be doing quite well without me. I was in my sweats, not dressed for going out. Never mind. I got directions and found that the club was only a few doors from home. It looked inviting. The place was filled with patrons, and hazy with smoke. When I entered, heads turned at the beckoning of the old-fashioned doorbell. I walked to the table where my colleague was. He and his French friend stood, politely, gentlemanly. Introductions were made. Actually, everyone was curious about me, and greeted me. I was extremely uncomfortable but I couldn't place why. I hate being around smokers, the way the smoke gets into everything, my hair, my clothes. And it wasn't hard to miss that every person was smoking. I made a mental note to put in enough time to be polite and leave. I'm designated, at least in American courts, as an officer of the court. I quite literally can never hear someone's confession of a crime without reporting it, nor commit one, which stands to reason. Everyone who knows me, knows me to be straight arrow. And on these issues, I take myself quite seriously. Cause after all, I gotta keep my day job. Very quickly I started to cough. "Oh, how thoughtless of me, let me get you a drink." I ordered a cappuccino, and thankfully, it was a small one. I chatted with the two young men, straining to maintain a conversation. They played Sudoku and bantered with each other and with me. When I felt enough time had passed, I made a joke. "I have to Skype Ari or he will think I'm dead in a drug den..." AAAAAAAGH …. AAAAAAAAAAGH!!! It wasn't until I made my joke that I realized I was in a drug den. Me, Carm, the straight-arrow officer of the court. Me, the mom who never stopped lecturing about the evils of weed, and never stopped checking underwear drawers for telltale paraphernalia. The Frenchman suddenly remembered his manners, and handed me a twisted "cigarette" that he had just made with papers and a small pouch of green leafy substance, the phrase I had mastered in one stroke in court. Where I'm from the toke he was offering me is a Class 4 misdemeanor worth six to 12 in the county jail. AAAAAAAAAAGH! I thanked him. I know this stuff is legal in Holland, but I was reeling from the fact that I was actually sitting here with potheads, something I constantly reminded my kids and grandkids they should never do. Me, Granny. Gulp. I realized why the room was hazy and had that sweet smell I thought was incense. I declined the freebie and tried not to breathe so deeply. I made my excuses soon after that revelation and they were gracious. "If you get lonely after your call, come back, we'll be here for a while." When I told my family, three of us court reporters, they died laughing. "A drug den? You?" I think I have never heard them laugh so hard.