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Pain and the Prairie

Whippet Good
By Robert Cohn

As the concentration approaches 100 percent, the user achieves a brief sense of euphoria. But that is only one extreme. The other is that within seconds, an individual can stop breathing because of the depression of the central nervous system. Still, this startling reality has not stopped the 30,000 illegitimate users of nitrous oxide to delve into the world of psychedelia. Some come out of it missing a few brain cells, while others get wrapped up in the feeling behind the cold air spewing from supermarket whip cream canisters . . .

It was a clear morning, toward the close of November, when Jared Kirschenbaum slowly worked his way outside. Meanwhile the wind had gathered strength and the broad light-sheets of early morning rose from the horizon. The occasional light drops of rain fell with an ominous sound on the now moving Volkswagen "Bug." A storm was evidently close at hand, but not the type that comes with lightning; a storm of suffocation that Jared had never known.

"I reached to open the Alachua County Courthouse door," Jared said in whispering remembrance. "The spectacle which presented itself was so extraordinary that I stopped short of the second floor courtroom, and looked on in mute surprise."

He professed that he had not done it.

On November 5, Jared parked his shit-brown 1967 VW "Bug" in the nearest spot to "Winn-DickMe," after a full night of Cosmopolitans, "Purple Hooter" shots and the occasional $4 Icehouse. His sole intent, he recalls, for the 3:34 a.m. visit was to fill his stomach with the most edible thing. This consisted of 20 honey glazed chicken wings, as well as Ben and Jerryís chocolate ice-cream that he intended to use in the generic root beer laying on the second shelf of his Gainesville apartment refrigerator.

Jared walked into Winn-Dixie alone. And though his intent to get only food was there, his mind was not.

He found the wings and cream after twenty minutes of "wandering up and down the aisles before coming to the dairy section in the back of the store."

"I peeked around the corner to see if anyone was watching," Jared said. "I hadnít seen anybody the entire time I was looking for food, so I grabbed the Reddi Wip canister, tore off the blue lid and inhaled the contents. I put two more of the blue canisters in my shopping cart and went to the counter to pay. When I got there, the cashier charged me for the wings, the ice-cream and five canisters."

Five canisters?

"If you donít want me to call the cops than you had better pay for the canisters I saw you inhale back there."

"I didnít inhale five canisters back there," the 23-year-old Jared said, being caught by surprise. "And I am not going to pay for something I didnít do."

"I saw you do it."

Jared professed that he had not done it.

The 5.0 rolled up. And Jared knew, for the first time, he had made the wrong decision. A few seconds of nitrous oxide stupor was cause of this raucous.

"Close by, and nearly behind me was, was the cashier," the 250-pound-plus, Jared said. "íHere is the guy, was his only response.í"

The bailiff handed Jared, like the others in the wood surrounded courtroom, a sheet of paper unlike he had ever seen. He was, in all respects, a silent character wandering, like he had in Winn-Dixie, through life, making barely a wrinkle in the wave of life. But this time the wave caught him.

The paper, in short, was the testimony of Jared. And it had three options:

  1. Guilty

  2. Not Guilty

  3. No Contest

After filling the contents of the paper Ė name, social security etc. Ė Jared had a decision to make. Not guilty Ė fight the charge and tell his parents. "No!"

"It was either guilty or no contest," Jared confessed. "I couldnít tell my parents. This had to remain a secret."



The fearful moment had come, and Jared had barely time to draw a full breath of preparation for the struggle, when he was literally whelmed in the raging waters.

"I felt a shock, a sharp jerk and a sensation of immense pressure. I had just enough consciousness left to know that I had to rise with involuntary effort when I heard my name."

Others crawled, or so it seemed, to the questioning spot before the black judge Ė all having the same look of momentary torment.


"I strove to rise now, but could not," Jared recalled. "I delayed, and as that happened, I remembered distinctly that terrible night, terrible choices: ĎI suppose I fell so far into the drinks that I lost myself. I didnít have a good time anyway . . . I wish I had a time machine.í"

How long he remained insensible is of no consequence. Jared had to rise and reveal the truth behind the night of November the 5th. When his consciousness returned, which it most likely did slowly, like the lifting of a curtain, Jared took his place.

"I felt that I was severely hurt, and before opening my eyes, and taking a deep breath, I tried to drive away my terrible recollections," he said. "But I still wanted to wake from this dream, maybe that is why I shut my eyes. I wanted to banish its features from my mind."

Judge Jackson opened the spreadsheet of facts officers took down the night of November 5th. With a smirk of disbelief on her face, she looked up and said, "A whippet? That is why you are here. Son, it looks like this is going to be the costliest $4.87 you will ever spend ($4.87 being the amount Jared refused to pay for the whippets he said he didnít do). I hope you learn your lesson from this because I do not want to see you in here for such nonsense again."

And with the words of force still looming in the musty courtroom . . .


"No Contest."

He professed he had not done it? He professed he had done it? At this point it didnít matter. Either way, the plea was recorded and a sentence made Ė six months probation, court costs and a mandatory eight-hour drug and alcohol class.

It was no dream, but stern and severe reality, and for the moment Jared comprehended the truth of that night . . . "It wasnít worth it!"

This is one of only many stories of the like. On the legislative and regulatory front, the Compressed Gas Association and the National Welding Supply Association have identified initiatives to address the N20 abuse issue.

Both organizations are working closely with member companies who represent producers, fillers and distributors of N20 to tighten distribution and develop codes of ethics by supermarkets like Winn-Dixie.

Not only had Jared made the wrong decision, but he also became another figure in a consensus statistic. Which is worse?

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