As I vacated the smoking area near the beer gardens and bathroom after 9 p.m. on my first day at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair, I had every intention of going a different direction but something was pulling me to head back north where I came from, and am I ever glad I did because doing so led me to my best sighting of the day by far. On the curb just north of the beer gardens, I spotted a fast-moving trio exiting the area minus any adult beverages but two of them holding unlit cigarettes in their hands. The eclectic trio included some hipster-looking mid-20s guy, an early 20s brunette girl, and the girl who locked in my attention and kept it for the next several minutes, a petite, fresh-faced mid-teen blond in a flower-print tanktop and dark jean shorts who was only about 5’2″. When I saw her face, my heart briefly stopped because it was just so innocent and the rest of her presentation matched that innocence. But based on her company it took awhile before I allowed myself to accept that she was only about 15 years old….
As rare as it’s become to see mid-teen smokers, I always come up with reasons to talk myself out of believing they’re as young as they look, and I kept telling myself she had to have just been a young-looking late teen. My early skepticism about her youth notwithstanding, I was still preparing myself for a fantastic sighting as I watched the guy light up his cigarette and made sure I positioned myself parallel to girly so I could see her light-up when he handed her his lighter. When she did, I finally began to accept that she was about the age that I instinctively suspected as she placed that unlit cork filter between her lips and fired up, briefly struggling to work the lighter before bringing that cigarette to life in a way that just screamed 9th grade girl. Interestingly though, that light-up would be the only part of her smoking routine that resembled the work of a 15-year-old girl….
I had to work hard to keep up with this trio as they hustled their way down an oddball, out-of-the-way path to get from the beer gardens to their midway destination, and I hauled ass through the crowd attempting not to miss a thing or God forbid lose them. And whatever midway rides they were about to go on couldn’t hold a candle to the ride I went on watching this little girl’s smoking performance. She must have set a goal before she arrived to exhale cigarette smoke into the faces of very fairgoer on the grounds as it seemed impossible for it to be a mere coincidence if she hadn’t. Her drags were impossibly accomplished for a girl so young, frequently done in the form of brief no-handlebars dangling drags, and her exhales were very impressive combination nose-and-mouth missiles that repeatedly nailed their targets, assuming the targets were innocent bystanders of all ages who kept getting nailed in the face by this adorable cutie’s air pollution. The only downside was that with everybody else getting whacked by her exhales, I wasn’t getting the opportunity to get splashed in the face with as many of her stink bombs as I’d hoped. It continued to be a challenge keeping up with this trio as they weaved through huge crowds of mostly teenagers at the edge of the midway, with my girl never amending her aggressive and criminal smoking behavior a bit even in the densest of crowds. At one point she even walked right past a fairgrounds cop with cigarette in hand and didn’t bat an eyelash….
Now I appreciated the fast pace of this sighting for what it was but as the trio got into the midway, I was rewarded with a needed respite as they got into the ticket line and I had a conveniently located bench to enjoy a front-row seat for the second half of her cigarette. It was such a treat to watch this sweet-looking young thing smoke her cigarette while standing in this line, especially in the company of the guy and the nonsmoking brunette. Was she the younger sister of one or both of them? It was impossible to know but there was zero doubt in my mind as I watched that this girl was younger than the other two by several years. I had one snapshot left on my camera phone so I had to make it count, and since it was after dark my prospects for a quality photo weren’t great, but I got as close as I could and waited for her to take a drag before snapping that shutter just as her face was partially turned my way. It’s too blurry to fully appreciate but I couldn’t have possibly done better given the circumstances…
She had about three drags left for me to just sit back and admire at that point, with generous missiles of smoke always flowing from her nose and mouth that repeatedly reassured me she was no rookie. There’s a teen celebrity, past or present, that she reminds me of but I can’t put a finger on who. But the past-tense rolodex girl that her gentle mid-teen features immediately brought to mind was the early teen “strawberry blond” (FCF #5) smoking with her family back in 2008, although obviously this girl was a straight blond without any strawberry. Without a shadow of a doubt, she was my top find of the day and she was approaching the end of her cigarette just as her group was buying tickets, but walked off with it still smoldering after making the purchase, giving me confidence that I’d get a butt ID. Unfortunately, this would have an unhappy ending as I watched her take her final drag and then squeeze the filter to crush out the cigarette. As I was bemoaning the prospect of her tossing the butt into a trash can rather than merely littering it, she sped up her walking pace to toss the butt into a dumpster full of garbage bags that some fair worker was hauling in front of her. Damn…wasn’t gonna identify that one, but for what it’s worth I think I saw Camel markings on it when she lit it up at the origins of the party for my eyes that this sighting was. I watched her perfect little petite smoker girl body migrate west deeper into the midway as the adrenaline from having scored my best sighting of the day pulsated through my otherwise weary body.