On my first journey to central Iowa’s most upscale mall in February 2013, things started coming alive by mid-afternoon. I was standing inside at the entryway doors at one of the mall’s most popular rear entrances. An early 20s light brunette with a phone to her ear stepped outside and sat on a makeshift bench only feet away, and it seemed a pretty safe bet that she was gonna light up a cigarette. She was very much in plain jane territory, but since she was the only game in town, I was at least gonna stick around long enough to confirm that she was a smoker.
But as I was waiting, I noticed two extremely wholesome high school age girls walking past me and exiting the mall. I took note of them, especially when they started lingering just outside the door, but I never took too seriously the likelihood that they would be smokers given that they looked like they should be sitting on the bleachers cheering on their boyfriends at a high school football game. My eyes drifted towards the original plain jane who produced a cigarette from a pack and was preparing to fire up. I had a hard time getting too excited about her but it was nice to see my instincts were correct and that she was indeed smoking. But just as I was mentally patting myself on my back about my great instincts, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the wholesome blond from the high school girl duo had a cigarette she was inserting into her mouth. My heart skipped a beat but recovered just in time to see the even cuter brunette friend with an unlit cigarette between her fingers too. My instincts didn’t seem so great anymore….but I couldn’t have been happier about it.
The smoker girls drifted towards the wall and I knew my best position would be outside on a bench facing them, so I headed that direction. I took a seat on the bench and finally had a chance to get my first good look at these two incredibly unlikely 17-18-year-old smoker girls, and they didn’t disappoint in the least upon closer inspection. It seems like most girls frequenting this mall have an upscale look–a certain air of glamour about them—but these girls looked as accessible and low maintenance as is possible, decked out in sweatshirts and jeans. The blond was briefly dangling after lighting her cigarette, quickly assuring me that she’s been smoking for awhile. She was dressed the most girl-next-door, in a gray sweater and jeans. She was cute, but not a knockout. The brunette, on the other hand, was a genuine beauty. Her features were absolutely perfect and I continued to marvel at that cigarette between her fingers that ventured its way to her mouth every 30 seconds or so for quality drags.
The brunette’s smoking style was solid but not necessarily distinctive with carcinogenic cloudbursts emitting from her facial orifices in the seconds after taking her drags, but the blond was the one who impressed most stylistically. While her drags didn’t seem any lengthier than normal, her hold times were superhuman. I wouldn’t doubt if eight seconds passed after every drag before the smoke started flowing from her black lungs. I was in awe every time, thinking I must have missed the exhale only to discover moments later that it was still to come. The original girl to whom I have to give credit for helping me to stumble into this duo was nonetheless a distant memory at this point even though she continued to smoke only a few feet beyond them.
But the most memorable storyline attached to this sighting was about to play out as a little old man with a cane was standing just inside the doorway looking out. In an adorable act of charity, the blond opened the door for the man with her cigarette-free hand, asking him if he needed help. The man said he was just waiting for his wife but seemed to feel obligated to step outside at this point, walking past the stinky smoker girl who then turned back to the brunette to give a somewhat embarrassed look about putting the guy on the spot. The man kept walking about 10 yards in front of them, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was trying to escape the smoky stench of the charitable blond teen smoker and her friend. Whatever the case, the girls resumed smoking and conversing and I overheard tidbits of their chat, including the brunette making reference to her “teacher” which reinforced my impression that these were mere high school girls as she would have said “professor” if she was talking about a college educator. It was a good show, but came to a close rather inconveniently as the girls approached the nearest ashtray and stubbed out their cigarettes only seconds removed from the original light brunette and a young guy who was also out smoking soon before they were. The girls went back into the mall, never to be seen again that day and unfortunately I couldn’t tell for sure which cigarette butts were theirs in the ashtray. Even so, what a desperately needed dose of teen smoker yumminess after an extended cold stretch sightings-wise.