What an Actual Weed Delivery Person Thinks of High Maintenance
Esquire – By. Matt Miller – 9/20/2016
There’s a scene in the first episode of High Maintenance in which the show’s main character, a weed delivery man known only as The Guy, loses his cell phone. It’s eventually recovered by two of his clients, who he’s listed as “Assholes” in his contacts. Rather than retrieve his phone, The Guy wipes it clean remotely. “It’s impressive you can just erase your burner like that,” The Guy’s friend says.
“It’s not a burner, it’s just an iPhone,” The Guy responds.
In a time when weed has become legalized in parts of the country and the stigma around its usage has withered away, its portrayal in TV and movies has done the same. Rather than becoming the typical kind of stoner comedy, High Maintenance attempts a realistic approach to weed culture, portraying the humanity of the people The Guy delivers to and the normalcy of smoking pot. This isn’t The Wire, HBO’s prestige drama in which the drug dealers devise elaborate ways to avoid the authorities; this is just about dude who rides around on his bike delivering pot to other people as unique or as boring as they come in everyday life. He uses an iPhone, not a burner.
But for all the intimate moments between dealer and client, and all the small personal touches in the writing and depiction of weed culture, how realistic is High Maintenance? I called up Alexa (that’s not her real name—and she’s not my pot dealer, by the way) who has been delivering weed in Manhattan and Brooklyn for about a year.
“Being a woman, I’m a little more careful about whose houses I go to,” she tells me. “I definitely try to keep it close.” Alexa delivers part time while also working as a bartender, she admits, and her clientele consists mostly of a network of friends and customers from the bar. What it sounds like is much along the lines of High Maintenance, a series of human interactions that can be awkward, frustrating, insightful, boring or bizarre.
So, you watched the show this weekend. What did you think!?
One of the things that I thought really rang true was when he went to that guy’s house who told him he didn’t have money. That happens a lot, and it’s just so funny, because this whole transaction is based on the fact that you have to pay me for something, and you didn’t bother to get money ahead of time. Then you end up spending a lot of time with people that you wouldn’t have otherwise, trying to figure out if they’re going to go to the ATM or if you’re going to go together. They think of you as a friend, and you see it in the show that he’s providing a service, but he’s also friendly with them. There’s a delicacy that you have to have—like, how do I get paid for what I’m doing while also making people happy with this service?
So that happens a lot then?
It happens all the time. People hardly ever have money.
What do you do in that situation?
A lot of times you have to wait. You have to be like, “OK, cool, so are you going to go to the ATM? I’ll just chill here.” Something that you think should take a certain amount of time could take much longer, because you’re waiting for people who are in party mode. They’re like, ‘”I’m going to get high,” and you’re not. That was funny about the Vin Diesel guy [in the first episode] because he was like, “What, you’re not going to smoke with me?” You can’t get high with every person, especially if you’re doing it on that scale. And sometimes I just don’t want to. Just because I’m delivering doesn’t mean I get high all the time. That’s a delicate moment—especially with new people.
That moment in particular was funny, but also kind of tense. Have you ever been in a situation like that?
Luckily I’ve never been, but it’s definitely something I’ve always been aware could happen. When you’re out there doing that many deliveries, you’re just seeing a lot of different people in one day, and you’re seeing them in their environment. And whatever happens to be going on in their world in that moment, you end up being a part of.
Have you ever seen weird stuff like that or walked into an awkward situation?
The other day I went over to a friend’s place, but this was for a friend of hers I had never met before. I walked into her apartment and met this guy and a friend of his who must have been partying for days. That’s when it gets kind of weird, but you definitely walk into situations where you’re on a totally different level than the customers. They probably had been doing coke for days, and I was catching them on the tail end of it. And then they were looking to relax. They were at a 15, and I was at a five.
Have you had to blacklist anyone, like how The Guy listed those people as assholes in his phone?
I have, actually. There was this one guy who never paid me. He would always be like, “Oh, I don’t have that much money.” Once he told me he’d go down to the ATM; we smoked and it was raining outside, and we walked the wrong way around to the train. I was like, “It’s pouring rain. Just give me that $20 next time.” And every time I worked with him, he’d never have it. So I was like, alright, dude, I’m not going to go through an effort to deliver to you again. Definitely on my not-a-priority list.
Did you think there was anything that was totally wrong or unrealistic?
I thought that scene was really exaggerated, in terms of the fight and the man pulling out the sword. Not because I didn’t think it could happen, but it just seemed a little over the top. I thought that in terms of getting a sense of what this guy’s world is, it didn’t really ring true that he just had one customer. I thought it was a little one-dimensional.
The show seems to me to be more about the human interactions he has while delivering, rather than the weed itself. You’re going to homes of strangers, and getting a look into their personal lives. Do you get that sense when you’re doing it in real life?
Yes, definitely. That’s the very reason that sometimes it can be tricky to negotiate how people pay you or how patient you are in situations, because it really is a human interaction. There has to be a certain level of trust involved. It does become important how you interact with people. It can be interesting what comes your way and what you deal with and how you deal with it. You have to develop that trust in an illicit environment. You’re going into something that’s already illegal and could be dangerous, so establishing trust with people is key. You have to be good at dealing with different people. Just because they’re stoners doesn’t mean they’re all the same.
Exactly, and so do you think weed culture that we typically see in movies and TV that’s accurate?
That’s hard to say because I only know my experience. I’d say the way it’s represented in High Maintenance is pretty accurate. Broad City is one that deals with it in a very funny but in a slightly non-realistic way, but that’s part of the comedy. More than any other show, that rings true for me as far as being a woman in New York.Weeds definitely was one of the first shows where people actually talked about it. It was so much more than how it’s depicted in like Dazed and Confused, for example, or in Clueless—the typical stoner guy. Like, for example when I was growing up, I had a friend who was around it all the time, because she had an uncle who had MS. It’s good to see it where it’s less taboo and there’s a better representation of it on TV.
Is High Maintenance doing anything different from other shows or movies that you’ve seen?
In its basic premise, it’s being told from the perspective of the person selling it. It’s nice to see stories that—like going back to Broad City, for example—of people who consume who aren’t burnout stoner idiots. They’re showing people involved in that trade as a legitimate business—well, maybe not legitimate, but just a normal guy who has good qualities and has depth. He’s a character that is doing something that’s technically illegal, but not really doing anyone harm.
As you kind of mentioned, with Weeds and Broad City, how do you think it’s changing how stoner women are portrayed in culture?
Certainly there’s more, and I think that’s cool. It’s in the same way that you’re seeing more roles for women that aren’t a love interest or somebody’s mother. Seeing more complex roles for women is always good.