#35. The Hy-Vee Gas Station Smoker Girls

It was a cool evening in early-to-mid November 2005 and I had just attended a political gathering where a bunch of Minnesota gubernatorial candidates were speaking.  I was unemployed and living with the parents at the time, two months before getting my current job and moving to Iowa.  On the way home from the political gathering, I had to stop for gas.  Not 30 seconds after getting out of my car to fill the pump, here came a van with about a half dozen 19-21ish girls in the back.  The driver was a Hispanic guy who appeared to be in his mid-30s and struck me as an unlikely driver of this van full of young girls.  My smoking radar was sounding off right away as the van stopped.  The door slid open and the girls began to filter out.  Strangely enough, all six of them were blonds.

Standing out in the crowd, not so much because of her beauty but because of her presence was a slightly chubby but still attractive girl whose motor mouth was running away as about half of the girls proceeded towards the door.  I was looking and listening for any telltale signs that might lead to smoking, and didn’t have to wait long until the chubby girl loudly shouted “Who needs cigarettes?!” just before going inside.

Unfortunately, the van was parked right in my line of vision as I pumped gas into my tank.  I could not see the girls as they proceeded inside.  For a few brief seconds, it was killing me….until a cute and quiet girl that had gotten outside the van and was standing right near the gas pump extracted a pack of Parliaments from her purse.  Apparently when the chubby girl asked who needed cigarettes, there was at least one girl who was a “no” as she fired up while standing just outside the passenger door of the van, not five feet from a gas pump while the Hispanic male driver guy was fueling.  The girl’s style wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing, but still adorable and the context was of course very exciting, with the quiet but cute girl standing alone enjoying her cigarette, not only exposing the nonsmoking van driver to her secondhand smoke, but also exposing him to the risk of exploding as she smoked so close to the gas pump.

I took in as much of the sighting as possible but also wanted to see what the other girls inside were up to.  I found myself closely following the male van driver who opened the door for two of the girls who were inside and coming out.  One of the girls was the chatterbox who was blabbering on and on to the friend.  The van driver looked at me as he held the door as the girls exited engaged in the kind of bubbleheaded “girl talk” you would expect of gals this age.  After the girls had left, he motioned for me to c’mon inside as he held the door, giving me a smirk and then saying “It’s gonna be a long night”, obviously referring to driving around these college girls to whatever their destination was.  Whoever this guy was, he was the luckiest man on Earth and I would have given anything to trade places with him that night.

I got in line to pay for my gas behind the last of the blonds still in the store.  She was showing her ID before the clerk handed her a pack of Marlboro Lights.  Did all of these girls smoke, I thought to myself.  I went outside to find the girls all inside the van and I wasn’t really in a position to hang around out there and watch until they drove out, so I quit while I was ahead and drove off.  But unlike any other sighting in my life, this may be the only one where the more enduring and fascinating enigma was the guy involved in the sighting.  Who was this guy lucky enough to drive around a bus full of blond college-age smokers?  He sure didn’t look like a smoker himself so I wondered if he loved it or hated it when every time he climbed into a van his nose was overwhelmed by the odor of smoke clinging to all these girls, at least three of whom were confirmed smokers.

This was a sighting that still didn’t live up to its full potential given that there was the possibility of seeing far more, but it nonetheless stands out as an exciting and unique sighting and one very much needed at the time, as I was really jonesing for a good sighting in the fall of 2005.

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