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Bitsy gets crankin'

How to spot a meth lab in Southeast Charlotte

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Residents in the Carmel Road/Quail Hollow/Ballantyne area nearly jumped out of their Docksiders and Bruno Maglis recently when media reported police had arrested a woman for operating a methamphetamine lab in a South Charlotte home. Later, when further information revealed the meth lab's location was just some middle-class area on the fringes of Swankville, the thankful swells breathed a huge collective sigh of relief that reportedly blew down a few trees near Pineville.

All I can say is, don't get too comfortable. As the national media has warned over and over again, meth labs are everywhere these days, maybe even next door. All it takes to make methamphetamine is a lot of decongestants, some commonly available household chemicals and a willingness to dump toxic waste into the nearest creek or dumpster. Or neighbor's yard. Nationally, authorities have dismantled more than 50,000 clandestine meth labs and are reporting a big uptick in the number of labs located in urban areas. One thing for certain is that the former image of smelly old hippies or scratchy mountain hicks making methamphetamine in their bathrooms is a thing of the past. These days, meth "entrepreneurs" are as likely to be named Muffy and Bitsy as Sunshine or Lester.

People everywhere have seen a pot of gold in those drugstore stacks of Actifed and have jumped into the meth business -- and made a lot of money -- by satisfying the growing demand for the powerful stimulant from wealthy thrill-seekers.

One DC-area meth dealer named "Corbin" told the Washington Blade he's making more than $500,000 per year, largely from selling to well-to-do clubgoers.

"We tried to put a new face on crystal, make it hip, cool," Corbin said, explaining that he used "very urbane-looking runners in the clubs wearing Diesel jeans, and kicked out the runners who looked like they came out of a ditch."

It's an epidemic -- police even found a meth lab in the home of a West Virginia sheriff's deputy. Hell, even Christians are getting in on the homemade crank bonanza: Police found a meth lab in a music practice room at the Fine Arts Center at Southern Methodist University.

Obviously, this is no time for citizens in Quail Hollow and other tony Charlotte haunts to let down their guard. With that in mind, here is a handy, clip-and-save guide for Southeast Charlotteans to help them identify which of their neighbors is secretly whipping up batches of crystal in their homes.

Your Neighbors May Be Operating a Meth Lab If. . .

• All their children and pets are named "Crystal."

• They trade in their Escalade for a liquid ton of acetone.

• The smell of ammonia is drowning out your own "vat o' Prada" scent.

• When you say hello to them, they either jump up and down and wave at you for five minutes or they beat the shit out of you.

• Their daughter's Barbie doll has a little Mercedes with dark tinted windows and a 9mm Glock handgun.

• The wife runs over one day and asks if she can borrow "a couple dozen hotplates."

• At night, there are so many cars on your street, it reminds you of the parking lot at that trendy bistro you love in the Cayman Islands.

• You see them at the Morrocroft Harris Teeter with two carts full of Sudafed.

• They need seven recycling bins every week to hold all the antifreeze containers and cracked glass beakers.

• That patch in the back yard where they poured out "the dog's bath water" is sprouting several varieties of glowing mushrooms.

• You spot the wife wearing that cute top you saw at Nordstrom and it's specked with small burn holes.

• When your child falls and scrapes his knee in their driveway, they say, "Oh, don't worry, we have a few barrels of iodine inside."

• When you ask them to turn down their music, they all laugh when the husband tells you the family "likes to crank it up."

• You accidentally receive and open their dentist bill and it's $30,000.

• Their two-year-old has a "Smokestack Lightnin'" tattoo on her shoulder.

• The husband sees you watching him as he hauls 100 pounds of Epsom salts out of the Hummer and explains that their daughter has "a mean case of poison ivy."

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