Problems, what problems?

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2007

I spent this past weekend in Norfolk, Virginia visiting some friends and accomplishing nothing (like I planned) when I decided to get some wings from Hooters (really, I went for the wings).

While waiting for my wings to finish cooking, me and a friend ventured out into the mall and began snapping photos, using the backdrop of Waterside as our scenery.

After snapping a couple of flicks, a security officer approached and told me that I couldn’t take pictures at Waterside.

At first I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.

I asked him why in the world was I not allowed to take pictures at what was essentially a tourist attraction.

He really had no answer and actually told me it made no sense to him either, but he did take the time to call the officer in charge and verify the policy.

Whoever was on the other end of the walkie-talkie said because I was from out of town and most of the stores were closed it would be okay for me to take some photos.

I had every intention of spending my entire column on how we as a nation have arrived at the place where taking pictures at a tourist attraction could be considered a criminal act, but then something even more insane happened to me the next day.

I went to a convenience store on Sunday morning and it was pretty chilly outside with a strong wind gusting every couple of seconds.

I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt at 10 a.m. when I walked into the convenience store and was accosted by one of the employees, &uot;I thought I told you about that hood before,&uot; the employee said to me.

After making it clear that for one, he obviously had me confused with someone else and, secondly, if he didn’t lower his tone of voice he would be picking his teeth up off the floor, I asked him what was the problem with the hood.

Two employees then attempted to convince me that it was illegal to enter into a store wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood part pulled up.

I was floored.

&uot;Are you serious?&uot; I asked one of them

&uot;Yes,&uot; she responded, &uot;it’s for employee safety.&uot;

&uot;So why doesn’t someone tell clothing companies to stop making hooded sweatshirts?&uot; I asked.

Dumb pause.

&uot;Huh?&uot; one of the girls managed.

&uot;If it’s illegal to wear the jacket, then why is it not illegal to sell it?&uot; I continued.

&uot;Oh you can wear it,&uot; she said. &uot;&uot;You just can’t wear your hood up.&uot;

Of course I could’ve carried this line of questioning on for another half an hour, but none of the employees was armed with enough wit to engage in that effort, so I abandoned it.

Still, I was incensed at what I recognized as another attempt to create a line in the sand for youth to cross at their peril.

One of the employees made the mistake of saying &uot;You might be in a gang or something. How would we know?&uot;

That was the last straw.

I immediately thought someone was following me around like a weird reality T.V. episode because I just finished addressing gangs in my last column.

Obviously my column upset some people in the legal community, and I’m sorry, but it’s not personal.

Most law enforcement officers I know are great people who are just doing their job.

It’s the policies of the government, which they are tasked to enforce, which are ludicrous and racist.

My brother used to be a police officer and my uncle has been a New York State police officer for as long as I can remember.

Both of them are quick to tell you that the laws in this country are designed to get black people more than whites and that white people look out for each other when thrown into legal troubles whereas blacks look to step on each other for show.

But back to my &uot;hoodie harassment&uot;; the sweatshirt I was wearing was hanging on a rack in T.J. Max before I purchased it and decided to wear it the next morning.

There was not tag or warning on the label that said, &uot;do not wear the hood part up, you might get arrested.&uot;

At least the box of cigarettes in my pocket makes it clear that death is in my future for using their product.

No problem, several years ago I took someone on a quick tour of the city I lived in to explain how the so-called legal business community supported the entire drug trade.

Not only does the legal business community support it, but without legal business, illegal business could not function.

How so?

When a cocaine dealer is looking to &uot;cut&uot; or expand his product before selling it on the street, the best substance to use is vitamin B-12. B-12 is a legal dietary supplement (supplement for what?) and will not harm the user like baking soda might do over time. Also, because B-12 is a dietary supplement(?), it supposedly helps crack users keep a little of the weight they lose from losing their appetites. Need some B-12? No problem. You can purchase B-12 from almost any store in the nation that sells health products. Never heard of B-12? Well for the convenience of big drug dealers some stores (even those in malls) sell it in bottles as big as your leg. Who needs that much B-12?

Need a scale to weigh out your drugs? No problem. Every college and military town in the country has a ‘head shop’ where you can buy any and every kind of scale, pipe and bong you need as well an assortment of bags to package up your drugs.

All legal, all out in the open. There are three &uot;head-shops&uot; within fifty miles of this office, all within walking distance of a four-year college. I know where they all are, so do the police.

Need something to smoke your drugs in? No problem. In almost every convenience store you go into there are rows of boxes of cigars called &uot;blunts&uot; which people use to roll up weed and smoke it. Everybody knows this, but does anybody care? No, they sell tens of thousands of them in Ahoskie and every other city in America every year.

Police tapping your phone? No problem. Anyone can purchase a prepaid disposable cell phone for only $20. The drug task force can never get a wiretap up in time to trace your calls and even an 11-year-old kid can buy and activate one.

Need an automatic weapon? No problem. There are dozens of sporting goods shops in the area where you can purchase guns that can be modified to shoot in automatic mode with one visit to the Internet where all of the instructions on gun modification are posted.

If you don’t want your weapon to be modified, it’s okay. The Tek-9 or the Glock, or the pistol grip shotgun that you purchase from you local sporting goods or automotive shop will still allow you to kill someone if you like. I mean, why else would a hardware store sell me a nine-millimeter handgun?

When I attack the system, that is exactly what I am doing, attacking the system. Unfortunately people are needed to make the system work the way it likes to.

It would be nice to see someone who works for the system to try to bring about change instead of towing the party line for a change, but that rarely happens.

Still, if the system is broken, you work for it, and you are not trying to fix it then it stands to reason that you are supporting it.

No problem, I understand, and so do the kids in the hood.