I got a job with the state of Iowa in early 2006. The commute to work took me through a somewhat gritty neighborhood on the north side of Des Moines, and there’s one corner in particular with a bit of a ghetto look. At the time, there was a fenced-in Challenger’s center on this corner that drew in a fair amount of teenagers. Driving home from work one afternoon a couple months after starting the job, I found myself stopped at a red light and looking directly at a most adorable early teen girl standing on the street corner smoking a cigarette.
I’m guessing the petite long-haired dirty blond was 14, standing there so innocently and unassumingly in her light spring jacket waiting for the light to turn so she could walk across the street. She certainly didn’t look like she fit in in this neighborhood, and she definitely didn’t look like she fit in as she placed that cigarette filter in her young lips and took a deep drag. Most young girls who smoke publicly either have a “check out how badass I am” look on their face or are cowering in fear of being caught, but I was struck by how this girl had the most natural look on her face as she stood there illegally smoking her cigarette in front of the entire world. The light turned green and I sped away, but she’ll definitely go down as the best sighting I’ve ever gotten at the Challenger’s corner after 10 years of commuting home past this same stoplight.