Today, Racer X is eager to stay on schedule because a few days earlier, he missed an entire shift—seven deliveries, a lot for a Wednesday—because the springs in his garage door broke. He’s grateful that we reach the day’s first customer—the man with the metal rod in his back—in just a few minutes.

Unlike Yoga Girl and Leo (who will be Racer X’s next customers), this customer isn’t willing to be interviewed on tape. He happily takes off his Hawaiian shirt to reveal a back brace, which he also removes. A nasty scar stretches from the nape of his neck to his tailbone; another traces a curve along the left side of his ribcage. He broke his back on the job several years ago and is trying to kick an OxyContin addiction. He smokes marijuana to relieve the constant pain in his back. It relaxes him enough that he can play his guitar. He’s clearly lonely; for someone who doesn’t want to be interviewed, he has a lot to say. He follows Racer X all the way to his truck in the parking lot of the condominium complex and reluctantly waves goodbye.

After dropping off the eighth of Lavender Kush and eighth of Northern Kush to Yoga Girl and Leo, Racer X delivers half an ounce of weed to a weathered, middle-aged Latino man who is cooking chicken in his Costa Mesa apartment and watching a Lakers game. “You guys want some food?” he asks, but Racer X is eager to move on. He’s got one more delivery to make back in Newport Beach. Then his cell phone rings. It’s the Big Kahuna, telling Racer X that the last customer of the night is about to leave for dinner. Racer X can’t make it to the house in time, so the Big Kahuna agrees to make this delivery himself, since he’s closer. “Next time, drop off at the houses that are close by first,” the Big Kahuna says. When Racer X tries to protest, the Big Kahuna cuts him short. “I’m the chief, and you’re the Indian,” he says. “Got it?”

Nathan Santistevan
Nathan Santistevan

*     *     *

A week later, on another Friday afternoon, I join Racer X again. After meeting at the Big Kahuna’s house to pick up several manila envelopes for the first few deliveries of the shift, we drive to an apartment complex just five minutes away in Newport Beach. The only problem: The apartment is on a street that Racer X’s talking GPS device doesn’t recognize. It keeps telling him how to reach a street with a similar name. Ten confusing minutes and a few dozen screamed epithets later, Racer X finally finds the complex. He calls the customer’s telephone number three times, but nobody answers. Finally, Racer X realizes he was calling the wrong number.

After being buzzed in, we walk into the dimly lit apartment of a fat man watching Fox News. A diploma on the wall identifies him as a doctor of philosophy. He buys a quarter ounce of weed. The next delivery is to someone who lives in Huntington Beach. Because Interstate 405 is jammed with traffic, we take surface streets, which turn out to be just as congested. (Racer X will later realize that with me in the car, we could have taken the carpool lane.) At just after 5 p.m. on a Friday night—the worst time for rush-hour traffic in coastal Orange County—Racer X starts to lose his patience. Despite having medicated himself with marijuana earlier in the day, he’s exhibiting clear symptoms of road rage.

“Come on, dude!” he yells at a driver who fails to notice the traffic light change from red to green. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!” Finally, the driver begins to roll forward, and Racer X breathes a deep sigh of relief. “Sometimes, I feel like a taxi driver,” he says. “I’ve learned how to dodge around in traffic and avoid the really bad intersections so I don’t lose too much time. But I’ve also learned how to calm myself down while driving. I need to be able to do that because I’m driving around in a car full of something that is still considered a banned substance under federal law, and I don’t want to draw any more attention to myself than I need to.”

As we reach the Huntington Beach neighborhood where the next customer lives, Racer X is busy explaining how he’s learned to identify prostitutes. “You can tell that’s what they are because they’re always sitting at the bus stop, but they never get on a bus,” he says.

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