This one goes out to everyone who partakes in smoking illegal substances at crowded public events due to the unlikelihood of getting caught:
This past weekend, my husband and I went to see the Dave Matthews Band perform live at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center). They are one of my favorite bands; we go to see DMB every year when they come to SPAC, despite the fact that the ticket price keeps going up. It was a whopping $83 per ticket for ampitheater seats this year. (I am too old and have too many physical problems to sit on the lawn, and the problem I am about to describe is worse on the lawn.)
I know that Dave Matthews fans are traditionally known to be pot smokers. Dave himself has been known to enjoy marijuana. And you know what? I do think it’s silly that pot is illegal while cigarettes are not. I would support legalization of marijuana for consumption in private homes. We have a public cigarette smoking ban in New York State for a reason, and it’s a very personal reason to me. You see, I’m very sensitive to smoke – tobacco and otherwise. I don’t know if it qualifies as a full blown allergy, but I react very, very badly to it.
I was really enjoying the show Saturday night. I was singing and dancing – although my awkward dancing makes me look like the love child of Elaine from Seinfeld and Amy Farrah Fowler from Big Bang Theory. We got almost the whole way through the main set… and then, ironically, it all went downhill during “Jimi Thing.” Which is a song about smoking pot.
I’d been systematically trying to hold my breath whenever I saw a cloud of smoke form near me for the previous hour. I’d had a few coughing spells, but nothing too remarkable up to this point, aside from leg spasms that had my foot tapping uncontrollably for about 30 seconds. Then I felt really dizzy, and I had to sit down – unable to see the stage or the video screens. I could’ve lived with this, even though it was inconvenient. But then I found myself unable to tap my foot along with the beat or even nod my head with the music. All I could do was sit and stare. Then the breathing problems started. I had to struggle for breath, and it morphed into a full-on panic attack. I didn’t have my Ativan with me – who knows if security would have allowed me to bring it in unless I managed to smuggle it in like the people with the illegal drugs. All I could do was practice breathing techniques I’d learned in Lamaze class. Tears leaked from my eyes because they were stinging from the smoke that was heavy in the air, but then they turned into real tears and I cried – panic attacks always leave me sobbing.
I couldn’t speak, even if my husband could’ve heard me over the music, so I typed a message to him on my phone to ask him if we could leave and find the paramedics after the set was over. I thought maybe they could drive us back to our car on one of their golf carts, because we were parked literally as far away as we could be in the Route 50 parking lot, and I didn’t think my legs would carry me that far. But I couldn’t get up and leave on the instant, because pushing through the crowd in the middle of my attack would have only made it harder to breathe.
But “Jimi Thing” wasn’t the last song in the set. There was another after it. I found myself finally able to breathe again, but the tears wouldn’t stop leaking out, and my mental state was highly unstable. I felt more paranoid and anxious than I should have felt, from what I’ve heard about the effects of marijuana. But drugs – legal and, apparently, illegal – have always affected me differently than other people. Conventional sleeping pills don’t touch me. Pain medications don’t work well for me in lower doses, and some of the more powerful prescription painkillers produce insomnia, whereas they make other people sleepy.
And apparently pot smoke really screws me up. So much that I had to leave the concert early, missing the encore. DMB closed with “Two Step,” which is amazing when it’s live. We paid nearly $200 for tickets to a show I couldn’t stay until the end of because other people decided to break the law.
The price of admission grants everyone the “right” to enjoy the show. But your right to enjoy the show does not extend to smoking illegal substances and endangering the health of those around you. You never know who it’s going to affect badly. You don’t know which women might be pregnant, who has asthma, or who – like me – ends up with a terrible mental and physical reaction to your pot smoke. The people immediately surrounding us were not smoking, so it’s not like we could ask them to go outside to do it. It was people a few rows away, so I had no way to make a plea. The fact that you had to sneak your drugs into the show to get past security means you know you shouldn’t be doing it. So don’t do it.
You want to get high in your car before the show starts? Be my guest. Or bake it into some brownies to bring in with you. It’s your own health you’re compromising. But let me breathe clean air. Let everyone at the concert breathe clean air. We have the right to that – the public smoking ban clarifies that. Just take some personal responsibility and respect other people’s bodies.