I had my first “real job” in the summer of 1998, following my sophomore year of college, when I was a mail carrier in my hometown. The job allowed me opportunities to observe female smoking in a way I hadn’t up to that point, having always shied away from crowds in high school and college and not gotten in on much of the comparatively wide-open smoking culture that existed in the era. Every loop of mail that I delivered, there was always the hope that I would stumble into a pretty young woman or college girl waiting behind the door with a smoldering cigarette between her fingers. But one August afternoon delivering on Madison Avenue, I would get something even better.
Putting things in context, Madison Avenue is an ironic reference as, in stark contrast to the posh image of New York City’s Madison Avenue shopping district, the Madison Avenue in my hometown is right in the heart of what would pass as the slums of town…..very gritty and working-class. I was delivering this route for two weeks and at one point took note of a cute 12-13ish blond girl living in one of the homes who was stepping outside and heading to mom’s car. I remember thinking she was a cute little girl who would probably be every poor boy’s dream in a few short years. But just a couple of days later her image changed dramatically as I ascended the cement stairs to her house and saw girlie sitting outside on the porch. In one hand, next to her ear, was a cordless telephone with which she was talking to her friend. In the other hand, she held a freshly lit all-white cigarette.
Before I had time to fully process what I was seeing, the girl aggressively held out her free hand and waved me towards her so that she could take possession of the mail. I was only in the presence of this greatness for a brief moment, but it was definitely my first interactive and most upclose sighting of a cute early teen smoker girl in my life up to that point. As I proceeded to deliver the rest of the block, I strained my neck every time I had a direct line of vision to see this girl attend to her phone conversation and her cigarette while relaxing on the porch. I never got a truly good look at her, but I did catch a couple drags from a distance. The next several days I delivered to this house hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again, but it would be the only time I would see the girl. Still, even today when I visit the hometown, I always look to that house on Madison Avenue hoping she just might be back on her porch (or perhaps this time a kid sister) smoking another cigarette while chatting on the phone.