the girl below us

The infernal marijuana machine

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 6 Dec 2022



Our pre-bong bong apparatus

In the room next to mine, 806, resided George F. and Rick Coffin.  The reason I mention his last name is that we all thought it funny at the time.  But, sadly enough, (as he was a very nice guy), he died in a car accident a few years later, the only one of us to meet such an untimely and early end, as if his name were prophetic.

George was on the pre-med track and taking chemistry courses, like my roommate Scott.  Yet far unlike Scott in character, (at least in these first years) he was an avid pot smoker, in the honeymoon stage with marijuana.  In the first weeks of residence he purchased a whole kilo of it, for personal use only.  He wouldn’t sell a gram of it.  But he shared freely with all his friends, who all of a sudden were numerous.  After dinner, his room often had five or six of us, like Ron D. and Zeebo and Craig and Joe, all having a great time, smoking and talking.  We smoked so much that rolling joints became tedious, so George, with his chemistry wisdom and a few borrowed pieces of glassware from the lab, devised what we called, ‘the infernal machine’.

It was a hot plate with an asbestos pad and a five-liter flask to cook the buds, then a hose at the top spigot running to another vessel filled with chilled water to cool the smoke, a fish tank pump with a switch to propel it when that flask filled with smoke.  He would load and heat the flask, then with one flick of the switch send such a huge blast of cool, white smoke out another tube that you only had to hold it before your open mouth to fill your lungs.  To put your lips around it might kill you or blow you up like a frog.  This tube we’d pass around, George at the switch just tapping it.  He’d burn a quarter ounce in a few minutes and the whole room would fill up with the white smoke, so dense you could hardly see your neighbor.  Hiram (now a world famous scientist in gene spicing) would sometimes sit with us but never take a hit and claim in a serious tone that he wasn’t a pot smoker.  But just sitting in that room he was as buzzed as any of us, so we’d laugh at his hypocrisy.  Years later he became quite the pot smoker, but by then I no longer had any interest in it.  Even by my second year of university I lost all interest, only doing it on rare occasions, sitting at a table with old friends, just to be polite.  It interfered with mental clarity and study, which had become my one and only passion.

A short while after moving into the dorms, I was sitting with Richard one night and we thought it a good idea to reconnoiter the seventh floor of girls to see which ones were hot and which rooms they occupied.  He was tall and handsome, the front man.  We went to each door.  He knocked and under the pretense that we needed to borrow some sugar for coffee I would stand behind him, looking in, with pen and notebook in hand and rate the girls on a one to ten scale, noting each door number and any names we got.  One of the prettiest girls lived right under George’s room.  One night, in a half-musing, very stoned conversation someone mentioned her and we wondered what she might look like in her pajamas.  This thought led to action.  George opened his window, leaned out and noticed their lights were out.  It was late and we knew they were both in bed, asleep.  But George also noticed their window was open just a crack.  The plan was set.  Four of us went down to the seventh floor, standing before their door.  George slipped the pot hose into their window, cooked up an especially large bud and with his much-practiced hand flipped the switch to deliver the biggest blast possible, filling their whole room with a dense, white smoke in an instant.  I wish we had a camera to record such an occasion, but we didn’t.

The girls of course immediately awoke in a panic, thinking the room must be on fire, and ran out into the bright lights of the hallway in their undies and our awaiting stares.  When they saw us they knew it was a prank, but they also realized the cloud of smoke was pure pot.  They had to leave the door wide open to let it clear, or else go back in, close it on us and get very stoned.  The short one did run in and open both windows and came out angry and loud at us for giving her such a scare.  But her words fell on deaf ears.  We were all entirely focused on the gorgeous one, standing with us in the hall, taking the joke very well, (perhaps a little stoned) and talked with us pleasantly and unembarrassed in her pretty underwear and white t-shirt until the room did clear.  She was so amenable she told us she wouldn’t report it (and the fact that it was illegal pot smoke).  We told her we’d never do such a nasty trick again, especially to her, apologized, and left her with the compliment that she had the most beautiful legs.  So we parted friends, went back to George’s room to tell him the story and all of us mutually agreed that this was the cleverest and most perfect plot ever devised.  Then we all headed to our respective beds to turn out the lights and dream about her looks in that undress and her unforgettable face, as if slipping into bed next to her.

One day we decided to put up a huge sign.  Each of us posted one big letter the size of our window facing out so you could read it blocks away.  It spelled ‘FUCK NIXON’.  In about a half hour we saw two police cars pull up, so we did the elevator trick.  When they got to our floor out of breath they knocked on each door and tore the letters off.  Sitting at my desk, when the cop entered, I protested: ‘Look, I only have the letter ‘O’ on my window.  What law is there against that?’  He tore in down without a reply.  He also saw my marijuana plant, about a foot-high growing in a pot on my desk.  This he broke in half, also without a word.  Then he left.  My parents had visited me in my room a week earlier.  My mother was impressed at how everything on my side of the room was in perfect order and put away in its proper spot.  Scott on the other hand was a sloven with piles of dirty laundry on the floor and across his unmade bed.  She noted this too.  Then she saw the plant on my desk and said: ‘Oh, how nice, you’re even growing a plant’.  To which my Father replied, sardonically: ‘Honey, that’s a marijuana plant’.  They left, but I think she still liked the idea.

We discovered one way to make a little money.  On each floor there was a washing machine and a dryer, coin operated.  We found that by unscrewing the four screws that held the top on and removing them, two of us could pick the piece up, tilt it upside down and towards the back and shake out all the coins.  The coin box was on the top and had a lock to it, but it didn’t have a top plate, so when it was upside down, the coins fell into a bigger compartment and through slots and out the back, on the floor.  It was hard work for two guys and took a few minutes of shaking.  But at the end we had about ten dollars in coins from each machine.  Late at night we’d hit all the other laundry rooms and collect quite a pot of coins.

We pooled the money for our common needs, pot and beer and at one point a bag of dog food for a mutt that someone had found on the street and brought up, a basset hound that roamed our hall and was cared for by a few of us.  It was our hall mascot for about two weeks.  Then it disappeared on day.  Rumor was that Grant threw it out a window.  But I don’t believe that.  It probably just caught an elevator ride and got away.  Most of us didn’t pay much attention to it.  Phil fed it bowls of beer on a Friday night.  It wasn’t in good company.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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