I had my first experience with MDMA (aka Ecstasy) this weekend; not by taking it, but by having a hotel room across the hall from a party where it was being sold.
While I'm not the sort of person who would ever have considered taking MDMA myself, I had a vaguely favorable impression of it as illegal drugs go. By reputation, its primary effect is to increase empathy. What's not to like about people having more empathy?
My experience this weekend with people on MDMA was very different from what one might have expected, given its reputation as an "empathogen." To state it flatly, if you take Ecstasy to make yourself more empathic, you are a narcissistic, self-deluded fool.
Thursday night, everything was fine. We got a good night's sleep.
Friday night was fine until about 1AM, when very loud music began blasting from 3117, the room across the hall. We had been mistakenly assigned a room on the party floor. I assumed it had something do to with guests whose rooms were paid for by the convention needing to be in the convention room block. We are fairly hardcore convention-goers and I have socialized my children to be noise tolerant when travelling, so being on the party floor should not have been a big deal. But the sound level coming out of the room across the hall was beyond my considerable experience. I marched across the hall in my pajamas without my glasses on and told the lone person in the room that he could not keep his door open if he was going to play music at that volume, and then closed his hotel room door. A few minutes later, he reopened it. His insistence at having the door open hinted at the commercial nature of his enterprise.
The loud music continued, but I heard no people except the occasional passer by. A while later, David stopped by the loud room on his way to bed and asked that they turn down the music, which they did, though they turned it back up after a short while. David remarked that the music in the main room of the suite across the hall had been too loud even for the party's attendees. So the sound system was in one room and all the people were in the other. We were very grumpy about the noise but tried to sleep through it as best we could. I felt foolish in the morning, thinking if I had only been more assertive with the guy across the hall I might have gotten more sleep.
Saturday night, I went to bed around 10. Shortly after midnight, the music started, even louder than the previous night. I immediately arose from my bed and went across the hall to speak to the host. He was the only one in the room. I explained to him that he could not keep his door open while playing loud music like he had the previous night and that he must close the door. I explained that I had two young children sleeping in the room directly across the hall.
His affect and manner of speech were most peculiar. He spoke slowly as though giving a speech to a large crowd: "MY. PARTY. BEGINS at. ONE A.M.. This. Is. the PARTY FLOOR. I. MAY play MUSIC. as LOUD as I LIKE. And the DOOR MUST. REMAIN. OPEN." He seemed to take the attitude that a mom in her pajamas with two kids asleep across the hall symbolized everything that was wrong with America and the world and needed a strong political response.
I allowed as how if he didn't close the door, I was going to call hotel security. Surprisingly, he told me to go ahead. He knew something I didn't: that the convention had a deal with the hotel that convention security, not hotel security, would police the third floor. The front desk said they would pass the complaint on to convention security. Meanwhile, I left the kids asleep in the room and got David from the Tor party and asked him to go discuss the matter with convention security, which he did.
After a visit from convention security, 3117's door was closed for a brief period. Then their guests began arriving and the door was opened and stayed open. Also, since it was impossible to talk in a room with the music turned up to 11, the somewhat deafened party-goers stood directly outside our door to talk, some even leaning on our door jamb. Peculiarly, the portentous and self-absorbed way they talked was very much like Our Host across the hall. Occasionally things would get quieter -- presumably when security came by --and they would get loud again.
When a group of six or eight began hooting directly outside our door, I opened the door and spoke calmly and reasonably to them, explaining that there were people sleeping in this room, including two small children, and they needed to take their party elsewhere.
Let me stop to say that while it does happen at science fiction conventions that people will stand in your doorway and talk loudly while you are trying to sleep, if you open your door and make them aware of the problem they will most often apologize and leave.
This approach cut no ice with the hooters. In fact, they seemed delighted that I had opened the door and so hooted some more. If they had been wearing convention badges, I would have taken badge numbers, but they weren't. It crossed my mind to wonder if this group, which did not smell like alcohol but had a strange shared affect, might be on drugs. It also crossed my mind that this was an old person's thought and that perhaps I was just getting old. I realized that there was something really strange about this situation that I didn't understand.
After chasing a couple of hooters down the hall, I realized that I should not be doing this and it was time for me to pay a visit to convention security. One of the evening's most memorable moments occurred in con security's office: Someone was sent to the party to speak to the host about closing his door and not allowing they party to spill out into the hall. Over the security walkie-talkie, I head the con security person tell the head of security: "He says he has the right to play the music as loud as he wants and the right to keep the door open." I leaned back in my chair, chuckling and shaking my head.
Con security resolved to take care of the problem so I returned by myself to my room. In retrospect, I should have asked for an escort. But some part of me still regarded them as our people who were a bit out of hand.
I had an ugly confrontation with the people partying outside my door, including one conspicuously grandious fellow who said something like "It serves you RIGHT for having a room on the PARTY FLOOR." I told him that I did not need to discuss this with him since security was on its way and closed the door.
Shortly thereafter, things got quieter. Then a little later, they got much louder: our host yelling "ARE THERE ANY VIRGINS HERE?" followed by the crowd chanting "VIRGIN VIRGIN VIRGIN." A bit later they got a little quieter. But then I heard Our Host calling to the people in the hall, "I DON'T want you to be QUIETER! I want you to make MORE NOISE!" They came over to our door and began hooting outside once again. I did not open the door. Instead I called convention security: this new event was really bizarre. Our Host was inciting his party guests to take revenge upon us for a visit from security, and his guests were doing it. This had crossed the line into some kind of collective psychosis. The revenge aspect was doubly peculiar, since by this point it had been some time since I'd last spoken to security.
Once I had done everything I could short of calling the Shaumburg police, we tried to sleep through it, though we were occasionally awakened by people calling for drugs, or the drug dealer speaking in grandious terms about how he had been selling at this convention for three years and hadn't sold as much this year; he attributed this to the STATE of the ECONOMY. I thought about calling the police at that point, but decided against it, since I had too little evidence and might seem spiteful.
Someone else must have called the police around 4:30 AM, since I'm told the police closed them down and chased a drug dealer out of the hotel who had been selling MDMA.
I got not the faintest sense of empathy from anyone in that stoned crowd. Seen from the outside, the MDMA-induced "empathy" experience looked more like a Lord-of-the-Flies style collective psychosis. These people were crazy in a very disturbing, sociopathic way.
Looking MDMA up on the internet, there are all these web sites which present MDMA as some kind of utopian drug with a few side-effects that need to be ironed out. From this weekend's experience, I conclude it is a bad, bad drug and that people who take it with the idea of improving their mental health are deeply deluded.