Puffing In Public
A smoker's guide to social subversion and civic disobedience

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the first time I ever smoked marijuana. (Okay, wait a minute ... goddamn, I'm an old bastard...) Anyway, it was at a Police concert at the Cow Palace right here in San Francisco. I took a big drag of a Thai joint in front of God and some nymph with a pre-Martha Quinn 'do who'd ripped her top off and raised a banner that read, "Fuck Me Stewart!" (I bet that never happens at Dave Matthews shows.)

See also...
... by Steve Robles
... in the Scope section
... from September 28, 1999

It's fitting that the first place I inhaled was in public, because ever since I've never been shy about puffing tuff in the most inappropriate places. Airports, trains, buses, weddings, funerals, movie theaters, in line at amusement parks (even in the little carriages in the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland), jail, bars, on the street. The only places I think I've ruled out smoking are in airplanes and cop cars. C'mon, I'm not friggin' Houdini.

I feel no shame. I have no shame. I guess my prime motivation (other than the natural pride of civic disobedience and my love of herb) is that I honestly don't feel there's anything wrong with it. I can't imagine it's more offensive than the lungful of tobacco exhalation I get when I walk down the street. I was so disgusted by this the other day as I walked down Geary Street that I pulled a pipe out of my pocket and blew a fat hit out in the fucker's face. That'll learn him.

And the greatest thing is that I've never been caught. Ever. I've kept a bong in all the cars I've owned since I was 19. People always tell me, "You're gonna get busted." When? I've blown out lungers from behind the wheel and stared as cops drove right past me without a clue.

Rather than simply boast of this admittedly modest achievement, though, I'd like to share it with those like-minded individuals who yearn to puff in public, but fear the long arm of the law. Because, let's face it, if you love bud and use it on at least a semi-regular basis, at some point you're gonna be out and about and you'll get The Urge.

Here are five points I've assembled to help you red-eyed agoraphiles puff herbs without getting hassled by The Man.

5. Leave the Joint At Home
I know they're a great monument to the ingenuity of the human mind -- combustible time-release capsules of cannabis, all rolled up and ready for today's on-the-go stoner lifestyle. The problem with joints, though, is they're about as subtle as a Martin Lawrence movie. You think it looks like a cigarette, but your body language when smoking a joint as opposed to a cancer stick is markedly different. Plus, they create an incriminating excess of smoke: particularly bad in high-security situations (remember, most rent-a-cops smoke pot at home, and would be more than happy to take your shit from you).

4. Set Your Lighter on Stun, Not Kill
This may seem like a pretty trivial detail, but the high setting of an 80-cent liquor store lighter can really ruin your sesh, especially since most smokers try to keep the process close to the body, as if this conceals your puffing. I've seen fingers and noses get more charred than G. Gordon Liddy's palm. And if you're a hessian stoner with long hair, an out-of-control butane flame at point blank range can be disastrous.

3. A Small Glass Pipe Is Your Best Friend
My friend told me the other day that he'd like to design a pipe inside of a cell phone shell as the ultimate camouflaged smoking device. After all, it's close to the face, and you have justified exposure for long lengths of time. I've never used any of that "little aluminum pipe that looks like a cigarette" shit or sneak-a-tokes or whatever. First of all, throw all of your aluminum pipes away right now, they'll give you Alzheimer's. Second, they get hot quickly. Glass is the least toxic medium for smoking pot, and hand-blown glass pieces are works of art. Get one roughly the size of your palm so you can roll it into your hand when necessary. This will cover the evidence well and deter second glances as long as you don't have a guilty look on your face. Which brings us to...

2. Don't Be Stupid
This sounds specious, I know, but there are many ways one can be stupid whilst toking out on the town, and not even realize it. First, you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Knowing of danger shouldn't discourage you, just define your boundaries. And, of course, the main way public tokers attract attention is by trying too hard to conceal it. Nothing says "guilty" like a crouching figure (shoulders bunched together), eyes darting suspiciously, hands nervously shielding his face.

1. Relax and Enjoy
If I've learned anything, it's that if you don't act like you're doing something wrong most people will assume you're not. It amazes me that some people who smoke pot when they're out are so serious about it that they can't possibly be having fun. And what's the point in that? Smoking pot in public without getting caught is easy once you realize that fun, subversion, intoxication, and common sense are not mutually exclusive concepts. Now go pack a fat bowl and wave your freak flag high!

Freelance writer steve robles is pretty sure he's higher than you are as you read this.