I had just arrived at metropolitan Des Moines’ most upscale mall on a steamy early Saturday afternoon in late June 2014, still lacking a mall sighting for the year worthy of this year-end greatest hits list. It wouldn’t take long to get my first truly impressive find for the year, but my heart still breaks for what could have been with this sighting if I had a few more breaks. Still, the most important break of all was the one I caught…the break that put me near the highest-volume rear entrance of the mall just as I watched an SUV with young two blonds was pulling up. It was a deja vu moment to two years ago when, at this same mall, I spotted a duo of hot blonds pulling into this same lot in a truck and both were smoking. I couldn’t get that lucky twice….right?
I watched as the SUV approached with the passenger window down and took note of the genuinely gorgeous blonds inside. As the SUV was passing right in front of me, I was truly surprised to see a cigarette approach the mouth of the adorable passenger. It was a split second sighting, but my legs were spinning like the road runner when Wiley Coyote is hot on his tail to make sure I kept tabs on where that SUV went. But it wasn’t a long chase as they soon turned into a convenient traffic lane and were lucky enough to score a parking spot not too deep into the lot. The driver struggled to wedge the large SUV into the tight spot and I was approaching from behind hoping to get a closer look. The driver’s hands were on the wheel and her window was not down, but I knew that passenger would still be smoking as her cigarette looked only about half-smoked. I approached from a rear angle and while I didn’t see her face, I watched the passenger ash her mostly smoked cigarette out the window. There was all kinds of potential here and the sky seemed to be the limit if they’d simply cooperate and get out of the SUV…..
But they didn’t. The vehicle was parked and I found myself bobbing awkwardly (and dangerously) from one lane of the lot to another to get a closer look. And doing so, I saw the driver now had a cigarette of her own lit. I watched one drag from my brutally awkward position before realizing I couldn’t do this without risking being caught by any number of people coming and going. So I did the next best thing and approached one of the benches at the main mall entrance, knowing that’s where the girls would likely go in. It was killing me sitting on that bench, their SUV just out of my sight range, knowing that both extremely beautiful girls were smoking. Now it was just a matter of waiting for them to come out, undoubtedly having disposed of their cigarettes, but at least giving me a close-up look of them and the chance to take a photo as they approached.
In a few minutes, they did. Two beautiful blonds were approaching from the SUV with Starbucks cups in hand….but it wasn’t what I expected. Like the two blonds from two years earlier (Mall #17) who this duo reminded me of, I figured I’d see a couple of 20 or 21-year-old beauties emerging….but instead I saw a couple of high school girls. The driver was nominally the prettiest, with platinum blond hair, a lacy white top and pink shorts. She was average height for a young female and I can’t imagine she was a day older than 16. The friend next to her (the passenger who I saw smoking first) was almost as pretty, but her presentation was arguably even more impressive given that she was petite, a good three inches shorter than the friend, with dark blond hair, a lavender tanktop and tight jean shorts. Perhaps it was just how petite she was, but I swear this girl looked 14. And we’re talking about unequivocal mid-teen beauties here….the kinds of girl you’d be shocked to discover were smokers even 20 years ago let alone in 2014.
The girls approached the mall, drinking from their caffeinated beverages and looking like the picture of summer feminine innocence, and I was aghast that both had fresh tobacco on their breath. Suddenly a sighting that seemed amazing from the get-go had become special in a way that put it in the running for “sighting of the year” qualification. I’m able to be pretty stealth with my new camera phone and snapped two photos as they approached. I attempted to follow briefly and snap a rear photo before they went into the mall as well, but the rear photo didn’t turn out and the frontal photos were from further away than was necessary to truly admire their gorgeous mid-teen features. I had struck out on the photo front but wanted to see if the girls left any tobacco debris outside the SUV. It was a very windy day and no butts were to be found near the SUV. I even peaked inside the window as I walked by and saw no signs of tobacco paraphenelia either. Unlike the aforementioned 2012 blond smoker duo, I wasn’t catching the necessary breaks needed to get this sighting the context it deserves.
I went into the mall and randomly wandered for a few minutes, hoping to see the girls again. I didn’t, and decided these girls were such rare finds that I should move my car to their lot in search of a parking spot where I could see them get in their SUV when they left the mall. I was not confident they’d smoke anywhere but inside the SUV given their tender ages so I figured this would be my only chance to see more from them. Within a few short minutes, I was getting inside my car from a completely different lot, and as I drove towards that rear lot where they were parked, I was contemplating how many things could go wrong here, like not being able to find a spot close enough to see them walk back to the SUV and being stuck waiting for hours for two teenage girls to leave the mall on a Saturday afternoon. But none of these fears came to pass as I pulled into the back lot and saw the girls were already inside the SUV getting ready to leave. Oh shit!
No windows were down and no smoking was transpiring, but that’s all I saw as I frantically searched for a parking spot. I finally found one about a minute later and started racing towards their SUV in hopes of one last look. They never did light up again, but I did get that final close-up look, walking in their parking lane at the exact moment as they pulled out. What spectacular beauties they were, and the close-up confirmed they were indeed mid-teen high school girls. As I watched that SUV drive off, my heart sunk. At one level, it made my day to see two blond beauties of this caliber were among the shrinking cohort of high school smokers in the year 2014. But at another level, these girls were worthy of being as high as the #2 all-time mall sighting on my blog (2008’s three generations of nicotine ladies is pretty close to a permanent lock for the #1 spot) but their show was so abbreviated that they will instead languish in the lower rungs of my all-time greatest hits. I wasn’t able to get this sighting out of my mind the entire day, distraught that the culture has become so challenging for teen smokers that the girls self-censored their smoking performance, hiding out inside their SUV to smoke, and preventing me from my most satisfying moment of 2014. Again though, I’m still much better off for having seen what I did.