Every August, in my only weekend free of fairs, I take a long-distance road trip somewhere in the Midwest…and in 2010, for the third year in a row, I scored a monster sighting on this road trip. Most years I head west to either North or South Dakota, but this year I went north….way up to the dense forests of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, right up to Lake Superior. I was driving along the south shore of Lake Superior and stopped for dinner (er, fast food) in the town of Ashland, a beautiful small town of 8,000 right along the shore. The majority of the people in this area make their living either by iron mining (there are huge iron ore deposits up there) or in shipping where they ship the iron ore through the Great Lakes. It’s a very working-class area, which presumably should mean above-average smoking rates, despite high cigarette taxes in Wisconsin (almost $7 a pack).
It was in Ashland, WI, that I was driving down the main highway through town and found myself at a stop light overlooking the parking lot of a Walgreen’s drug store. I saw the profile of this slender teenage blonde standing next to an SUV and her hand was extended as though she may have been holding a cigarette in it. Luckily, I was in a position where I could turn into the turn lane and head into that Walgreen’s parking lot. I found a stall directly behind the slender young blond, and although her back was to me, I was impressed with her sexy summer attire of an orange tanktop and light black jean shorts that looked as if they had the 80s acid-wash treatment. But I had less than a second to appreciate her wardrobe as I would then see a plume of smoke escape from her face. I held my breath and my timing was perfect as the girl then finally turned my way and revealed her face. She had the classic look of a hot but naughty teenage girl with an attitude, and although she didn’t see me, she took one final drag from her cigarette before flinging the still-smoldering butt my direction in the parking lot, spewing the final stinky fumes still inside her lungs, and then climbing into the passenger seat of the SUV.
I then was able to study the inside of that SUV. In the drivers’ seat was a middle-aged woman that was clearly the girl’s mother and in the backseat was a little brother. The girl was sitting there in the seat, the fresh stench of cigarette smoke clinging to her person, while mom was chatting to another gal she apparently knew who was standing outside her door. I walked up to the trash can to toss away my fast food bag, getting one last look at the girl in the passenger seat and then looking down to the cork filter cigarette butt she had just flung after smoking it nearly down to the filter. I was a little sick as I was making this road trip, but I’ll still look back to that moment on Lake Superior’s South shore that provided me my greatest sighting of the trip.