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Criminal Career Day

By Alfred Maddox

Artwork by Kaja Meyer

We jacked some typical Career Day questions off a school website and asked them to a gram dealer and a lookout.

This article is created in collaboration with VICE Denmark

On a typical Career Day, parents take a day out of their work lives to act as an employed show-and-tell object in their children’s classrooms. And while this is a great way to brighten young minds to the possibilities of one day becoming lawyers, or say, plumbers, tens of thousands of Danes/Brits are charged with violating drug legislation every year. Which means the experiences and philosophies of many of the world’s most common occupations, like drug trafficking, are left up to the adrenaline-fueled imagination of shows like Weeds and Breaking Bad. So to better understand the motivations and everyday deliberations behind a career in drug crime, we jacked some typical Career Day questions off of an elementary school website and asked them to a gram dealer and a lookout.

DANNY*, 27, Gram Dealer sold speed and cocaine for three and a half years

“Life is not about nding yourself. It’s about building yourself.”

So why did you choose this job?

Like with anything in life, you’re trying to paint a picture of your ideal self to the world. And my ideal self was just stacked with cash. I wanted to be a self-made man, a man of my own. And I didn’t know any better.

How many years did you envision doing this when you first started out?

I didn’t have a vision back then. It became my vision. It’s like jumping in a swimming pool. It’s fascinating. I’ve always idolised wise guys and gangsters, in movies and in life.

Did you enjoy your job?

Yeah, I loved it. You learn every side of human behaviour. It turns you on like nothing you’ve ever felt before. That’s why everyone loves drugs, and that also goes for selling them.

Describe a typical work day.

I dropped out of culinary school and started doing this. The days were nothing. Not achieving anything, just nothingness. It was just easy. I lived at my mom’s house. I had a number and went wherever the customers were. At the end of the day, we all went to this underground casino to play poker, and went in with the high-rollers to show off. We were competing, “selling” our respective phone numbers. That’s what a gram dealer does. You build customer loyalty. All the guys above you, the wholesale guys, wanted guys like you that were selling a lot.

What’s your favourite thing about that day?

Making money and going to the casino.

How many different types of jobs are there in your field? What are they?

There are people selling and then there are wholesale guys, but there’s only really one job: provider. Supply the demand.

How would you rate your job on a scale of 1-10 on the basis of fun?

I had a good time. I would say 10. I never really had anything bad happen. It was a learning experience, seeing everyone’s addictive personalities. And how easy it was to make money, have a business. You learn that you can’t let yourself get pushed around, but also to be reasonable.

How old were you when you knew you’d be doing this?

Around 16. I just knew that it was the only game I was a part of. Humans are very tribal in nature and that was my tribe—the only tribe I knew and fit into.

What special talents does your
job require?

I think you have to be likeable. People have this idea of drug dealers in their head, but they want to meet someone they can trust. At the end of the day, they’re just giving me money for white powder in a bag. So for them to hit me up, they have to know that I’m trustworthy. You have to show them that you know what you’re supplying and why you’re supplying it.

Were there any health hazards
in your job?

No. Cops aren’t after gram dealers, so you don’t feel any pressure from that. Worst case, I could’ve gotten caught with 4-5 grams. When you have dollar signs in your eyes, you don’t see anything else. I mostly just sold to rich kids, so I was never afraid of being jumped.

How much money do people in your line of work generally make?

I was pulling 20,000 kroner (£2000) a week. But it just felt like Monopoly money.

Are you paid by the hour, by a fee, commission or salary?

Commission, I guess. I just bought it, cut it up with powdered milk and sold it.

How is your job affected by
the economy?

The economy doesn’t affect shit. This is a world you step into. In a way, you cease to be in the real world.

Do you find your job exciting?

I loved every minute of it, and I don’t regret it. It was the first time I felt like something — my own man. Doing my thing. I always liked breaking rules. Ultimately I stopped because I didn’t want to be around these people anymore. I wanted something bigger, a presentable life. I was just providing, I didn’t feel like I was making anything.

What should I focus on in school if I want to be good at your job?

Building yourself. School tells you that you have to find your interests. But yourself is not something you find. It’s about building yourself in the free market. Believe in your character and what you’re building. And math, of course—the only thing the school system teaches that matters.

How did your job affect your
personal and social life?

When you’re the dealer, you are the dealer. Which is a heavy character to walk around with. It’s not a character that’s accepted everywhere. I learned to just be me. From a young age, I learned that there’s no such thing as a grown-up. There are just people who have spun around the sun more times than you. Laws don’t exist. Nothing matters, basically.

What are the best jobs in your field?

To be the moneymaker, the wholesale guy. Whoever is making the most and doing the least is winning. These will usually be the guys running the nightclubs, in most bigger cities.

Are there many openings for your type of job right now? Will there be in the future when I get old enough to choose my career?

There will always be a demand. This type of work is probably the biggest economy in every city in the world. We sell more cocaine than cereal here in the Western world, so don’t worry, kid.

What job would you choose if you didn’t do what you did then?

I’m a chef now. Being in a kitchen, I felt like I could just run away from all of my problems and focus on my craft, and that felt good. Maybe the first thing you choose in life is not the best thing but it will lead you to the next thing, and that’s what matters.

What was the most satisfying thing about your job?

The sex drive. It’s the only thing that makes a man do anything he ever does. Whether it’s getting a university degree or, like, making lightbulbs in the 18th century—it’s all to be presentable in the eyes of the female. So when you don’t know any better, you feel presentable when you have a lot of money. So I just wanted to get a lot of money and a lot of girls. And I did.

Cheers, Danny.

SEYMOUR*, 25, Lookout/Pusher PA

associated with the sale of hash and weed for a year in Copenhagen’s au- tonomous Freetown of Christiania. Although cannabis is illegal in Denmark, police have traditionally turned a relatively blind eye to Christiania’s ‘Green Light District’. This has changed in recent years, however, as police increasingly raid Pusher street in attempt to clamp down on Copenhagen’s marijuana market.

“I was a part of something greater than myself for the first time in my life.”

Why did you choose this job?

The reason you start a job like this is because there’s no parental supervision, one way or another. It starts with you smoking hash and hanging out in Christiania because you’re sad and trying to self-medicate. There were some rich kids out there, but most of us came from broken homes. You get a sense of belonging, family and acceptance. They take care of you when there’s no one else. I was lucky; the dude I worked for was nice. There were people who would take advantage of you.

How many different types of jobs are there in your field? What are they?

There’s a top dog, sitting back and chilling, and then all the other gimps doing the job for him. There’s the soldiers who pick up bags and go to the firm and deliver; they also ride with the money in duffel bags. Then there’s the younger kids who just get food and soda for everyone. There is always an enforcer or a supervisor to support the main pusher and keep everyone in line. Now, it’s all gang-related. The rules have changed up a lot since I worked out there. Now, anybody can cut the brick and sell it. You used to have to have lived out there for three years.

How many years did you envision doing this when you first started out?

It was day-to-day. I mean, you’re 17, you’re a kid. And you’re just seeing the money and eating well. I was infatuated with the quick buck. When you’re 16, getting 3 Gs a day… that’s more than a lawyer gets. There’s also bragging rights if you’re sitting out there and your friends walk by and see you with a firm. When you grow up feeling scared for one reason or another, it feels safe sitting there with a firm that you know is in your corner.

Do you enjoy your job?

Yeah, dude, I loved it. Also because I never got the police. I always got the nice shift, just sitting around smoking, looking, doing nothing. If they needed a lookout, I would be lookout. If people were hungry or thirsty, they’d send me to bike for food and drinks. It was the best job. You got to smoke for free, you got paid, the dealers were nice to you—if you knew how to toast a cigarette, at least. If not, they’d blow the chillum right in your face after they lit it. It wasn’t as violent back then; more just picking on each other in a fun way.

What’s your favourite thing about your typical work day?

When everybody was smoking, and we just finished a chillum, and the police would come. Someone would take the stash and run away, and everyone would be smoking their fat two-cigarette joints, just waiting for the cops to be two metres from you, and then flicking them into one of those oil barrel fires out there. The cops couldn’t do anything and they’d be so frustrated. All they could do was pat you down.

How would you rate your job on a scale of 1-10 on the basis of fun?

De nitely 10. The lookout stuff was lonely, but you got paid better than just getting sodas and food. But that PA gig was flawless: low risk, high-reward, good hours, family. 10/10.

What special talents does your job require?

Loyalty. Keeping your mouth shut. You didn’t even need good cardio because we had fat people working out there.

Were there any health hazards
in your job?

If you’re running your mouth or sidestepping, you’re gonna get checked. But if you shut up, keep your head down, you’re good. Like any other job. Just… harsher. I saw this dude get stomped out one time after hours. They said he’d tried to stab someone; dropped a cinderblock on his face six or seven times. We were just standing there watching this, as kids. Follow the rules, you’re gonna have a good time. Break ‘em, and you’re gonna have a bad time. Also, when you’ve been working out there for a few years, you get island syndrome. You get socially awkward and can’t talk to girls because you’re just hanging out with these alpha males all day. The macho thing was the only thing I didn’t like about it.

How much money do people in your type of work generally make?

Back then, you could get 100 kroner (£12) or 3,000 kroner (£350). If it was summer and had been a busy day, they’d hook you up. But if it was winter and slow, you’d get 100 kroner, a pre-rolled and a “see you tomorrow”.

Are you paid by the hour, by commission by salary or a personal fee?

More like paid by a fee-lin’. It was whatever he felt you earned that day. Firm but fair. Like Russian police.

How is your job affected by the economy?

Not at all. Maybe they even sold more when the economy crashed, because people wanna get high. If a big supplier gets fucked, that has an impact. It’ll get more expensive, or everybody will have the same product for a couple of months. The economy? No, dude. We have our own economy out there. Fuck Wall Street, we have Pusher Street.

Do you find your job exciting?

It was super exciting. And that’s why you do it, as well. The family and the adrenaline. You know it’s illegal. You’re angry at the world. You don’t care about the rules, because the system never helped you, so why should you obey it? The OGs weren’t encouraging us to go out and fight; they were looking out for us. The first day I got paid for doing something I’d been doing for months for free, just because I wanted to hang out. I got 100 kroner and a “thanks for helping out today”. It made me feel special and like I was worth something.

Is this a job that both a man and a woman could do?

I did not see many women out there, let’s put it that way. There was one at a top level. But it’s a man’s world. The chicks that come there do it for the money and to fuck aggressive dudes.

What should I focus on in school if I want to be good at your job?

You don’t need to be good at math to work for a drug dealer, because as soon as you’re handling someone else’s money, you’re gonna get the count right. Every time. Maybe P.E… some days you might need to run fast.

Are there many openings for your type of job right now? Will there be in the future when I get old enough to choose my career?

There are a lot of opportunities right now because everyone is getting busted left and right. There are different crews out there from day to day. The rotation of people has increased. But I see Christiania closing in the next three years, the way they’ve intensified it. Everything on the Street is gang- related now, and the police are going harder. After that, it’ll be back on the streets just like anywhere else in the world.

What would you advise me to plan
for my future?

If you have the opportunities for a “perfect life”, you shouldn’t pursue selling drugs, even though people do it for the thrill. It’s not cool to sell drugs. It’s a way of coping with traumas and making money. If you don’t have opportunities—just go with your gut.

Cheers, Seymour.

*Names have been altered to protect the anonymity of our sources, who—while known to us—are nevertheless discussing drug crimes punishable by law.