Cannabis has been tacitly or fully legal for the entirety of my residency in the state of California. This has spoiled me, not just materially (with an abundance of cheap or free top-shelf goods available at all times), but also mentally. Even having fully checked all the privilege that comes with my being a white male, I was still reared in an era and state where it was wise to be clandestine about cannabis usage, lest you slip up and catch a charge from a draconian DA. Over the years in LA, however, I’ve become complacent, and that once prudent paranoia has been replaced with a sort of flagrancy that would make teenage-me squirm.
I gave myself a bit of a wake-up-call on a recent flight to Austin when I discovered, post-take-off, that I’d accidentally snuck edibles onto the plane. I decided I needed a reminder of the old days to scare me straight. I’d use this visit to a state still handing out severe punishments for a victimless crime to try and reconnect and empathize with the anxiety so many in this country are still suffering on a regular basis, for no good reason.
As I wasn’t about to willingly put myself in real legal danger, and I needed to get rid of my contraband before my flight home, I figured the best way to simulate such an experience would be to eat the edible before putting myself in as stressful-but-contained a situation as possible: a panic room.
With my girlfriend acting as my accomplice, we made our way to the Austin branch of the Texas Panic Room franchise, splitting the 20mg edible on the ride over, our ride-share driver completely unaware of the criminal activity transpiring in the back seat.
Still relatively level-headed upon arrival, we were checked in by a nice young woman who prepared us for the challenge ahead of us. Though the company boasted five unique scenarios to bust out of, their newest addition, locating and defusing a bomb hidden somewhere in a recreation of the Oval Office, seemed like the best anxiety-inducing affair. Motivations bolstered upon learning that, in this scenario, we would be Secret Service agents looking for a way to save “President Chapman” and not the sitting U.S. Commander in Chief. We were led into the room, and the countdown timer began.
Naturally, I can’t get too into the weeds about the grueling hour of puzzles and codebreaking that followed. The folks at Austin Panic Room had done a bang-up job concocting riddles that would have stymied me even in my most sober state. So, suffice to say, once the edible started to hit, it took every ounce of our concentration to focus on the tasks at hand. On more than one occasion, my girlfriend and I had to walk over and tap our zoned-out partner to give them new information about the current box we were attempting to unlock.
Though we really had no perception of time, we figured we’d been wasting a fair amount of it and reached out to our guardian angel watching over us for a hint. I tried to ascertain if our handler could tell how high we’d become while watching us over the CCTV camera, but she seemed to be none the wiser and likely just assumed we were garden-variety dunces as she broadcasted a clue over the walkie-talkie we’d been given at the start of the event.
As the edible-high deepened and the timer ticked closer to our hypothetical annihilation by briefcase bomb, all hope seemed lost. But, somehow, some way, we discovered the explosive device with only a few minutes remaining. Now, all that was left to do was parse out the correct method of defusing it given the remaining clues we’d yet to use. We finally cracked the disarming code with only 45 seconds remaining and dove into the jumble of wires to finish saving the President.
A red light flashed elsewhere in the room, signifying we’d fucked up and blown Washington, D.C. to smithereens. Our handler walked into the room to inform us that we were dead while we reeled at the news, trying to maintain composure and not actually take the announcement to heart.
Then, in an unexpected twist, our host offered us another go at defusing the bomb. She’d been following our progress and, by her math, we’d done everything right. She restarted the bomb timer, and we were back in the fire, once again sweating over saving the beltway population, this time with the added pressure of a definitely sober person staring my high ass in the face as I pulled wires.
But the mulligan was indeed warranted, and repeating my first attempt at disarming yielded different results. A secret door in the wall opened, signifying that we’d saved the President with only seconds to spare. Better still, as evident by the lack of 10-gallon-hatted sheriffs waiting in the lobby to arrest us, our lack of sobriety had gone unnoticed. Or, y’know, this young woman might not have actually cared. It’s a pretty liberal college town. She’s likely seen some shit.
Later, while sobering up back at the hotel, I congratulated my partner in crime on a job well done and vowed to check my bags more thoroughly before all future flights…. Though that day’s lark hadn’t fully brought me back to the worrisome glory days of furtively hitting dirt weed “nugs” out of a tinner when the parents weren’t around, I could still chalk it up to a success. Perhaps I’d taught myself a little lesson. But even if I hadn’t, at the very least, I got to play hero for one brief, shining, stoney moment.