“Crackhead.” The name is a stereotype, but as a cop, so am I. I get a pass. The word is imbedded in American culture and in nearly every case its very mention conjures up a mental image that we can all relate to.
With a bit of luck your image is that of Tyrone Biggums, the character made famous by Dave Chappelle. Mugging children for cash, openly defecating on the street, chalky lips and a perpetual itch, and the willingness to sleep anywhere, eat anything and do anything for his precious rock—the Gollum of Crack Cocaine. Chappelle knew his game.
For me, it’s a girl named Wendy, who was the prom queen at Howard High at one time in her life, but now does terribly naughty things for $5 (cash, mind you) in the 1700 block of East Main Street. Like Biggums, she is very self-aware of her situation and her abandonment of standards, bordering on prideful.
As a youth, my first exposure was the pictures presented by Nancy Reagan during public service announcements at school. While this was indeed Mrs. “Just Say No” herself, it was comparable to the anti-marijuana ads of the 1930s (think “Reefer Madness”), except this time it was a lot closer to the truth.
“Just one hit and you would be hooked for LIFE,” the ads shouted. One day you’d be a student or a doctor, then if you took so much as a pull on the crackling pipe (from whence it got its name), then—boom!—you’d be pulling a Basketball Diaries in the restroom of the closest bus stop or subway station for your next sweet, sweet hit.
In truth, that’s a pretty rare case, or at least rare enough that I can only think of one example of such over the years. But it’s a pretty close runner-up to King Heroin in its ability to sink a hook and drag you to hell through a quarry of hot, sharp gravel.
Later on my association shifted to “Ezel,” the crackhead from the movie Friday with Ice Cube. But I’ve since encountered crackheads from California to New York. And unlike our atypically hideous prostitutes, Chattanooga has the same stereotypical crackheads here you’d find anywhere else in the country. Does that make them more attractive than our whores? Oh, God no. But at least it’s not another difficult hurdle for the local chamber of commerce to have to explain.
These are the people willing to tunnel into a dark, moist, sewage-filled crawlspace under an abandoned house in the heat of summer in the projects to extract copper from water pipes for crack money. You know those places you are afraid to drive past? They will crawl under them. They do that because they need The Rock, and they need it now.
So with such blind loyalty to the waxy little stones, wouldn’t you expect there to be some kind of military application by now? Wouldn’t you just want to air-drop your crack team of “Force Recon Crackheads” over an enemy stronghold, tell them there’s crack inside, and let them get to work? Alas, here’s where the crackhead falls short.
Everyone has a guy or gal at work (or in class) that smokes the herb, but always gets the job done and usually shows up on time. Same thing for crystal meth. But when they’re on “the rock,” forget it. They’re feral animals and completely unpredictable, which is a horrible business model.
When you see them, don’t wave at them—but don’t look away either. They are fearful of light, but sense any and all opportunities to get them closer to their Precious. So, how can anything have such a hold on you? It’s obvious. Cocaine ... it’s a hell of a drug.
Next week, baby.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.