This American Life Talks Toronto’s Cocaine Problem

If radio isn’t your thing, or podcasts, or TV, then we’ll understand if you’ve never heard of This American Life (TAL), the weekly non-fiction radio show hosted by Ira Glass produced by WBEZ and affiliated with both National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International (PRI). It’s won a bunch of awards, is often referenced in pop culture, and has been around since the 90s. So, think Mariah Carey, only still relevant.

Every week, there’s a theme that’s usually delivered in three ‘acts’. Guests, essays, field recordings, and live footage are just a few of the different ways TAL delivers stories to more than two million people across some 500 radio stations.

Some recent themes have been Death and Taxes, Tarred and Feathered, and today’s I Was So High. Which brings us to the whole point of this article. In a show about drugs and people being high all the time, TAL chose to kick off their prologue by talking about Toronto – and how so many of the people in our hospitality industry are pretty much high all the time. Think about that for a second. The opening to the show is the hook, ostensibly what’s going to make you decide to stay tuned for the next hour, and it’s about Toronto and its drug problem.

Producer Sean Cole goes on to talk to a number of (anonymous) bartenders and restaurant staff, discuss how much cocaine is in a “bump,” and how the drug itself is “fuel for the staff.” Oh, and also several managers and even uniformed police are apparently doing lines together in back offices. Glass’ response to this? Well, he simply points out that this is all happening in a city where the mayor was caught smoking crack and got to keep his job.

When Cole presents a study conducted by the American Department of Health and Human Services that lists the percentage of people per industry who admit to having taken illicit drugs in the past month, he starts off low with real estate and mining, both of which are just 7%, moves onto retail at 9.5%, construction workers at 14%, and then lays the smack down with the highest, accommodation and food services, at nearly 17%. And that’s just the number willing to admit to it. Glass is quick to point out these numbers could be higher (hey-oh) – especially in Toronto.

And we don’t know about you, but we’re pretty sure we know why they chose our city as a starting point for a show about being high. But hey, the next time your server screws up your three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, shaken very well until it’s ice-cold, and then given a large thin slice of lemon peel, at least you’ll know it has nothing to do with you – they were just dipping into some nose candy before you came. So a big thanks to This American Life for making our Canadian lives seem as close as that of our mayor’s as possible. Hopefully they were just in one of their drunken stupors when they decided to do it.  

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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