It had been a slow afternoon at the 2018 Missouri State Fair but I had a feeling that in advance of the evening Cole Swindell concert in the grandstand, it might start to come alive and did it ever with a chain of about two dozen sightings in an hour of fairgoers who were mostly headed to the grandstand show. But one girl in particular in this wizbang litany of sightings would throw me off balance with an eyebrow-raising gesture that lifted what would otherwise have been merely an extra-base hit into a sighting worthy of the year-end greatest hits package….
The sighting kicked off conventionally enough, with an early-to-mid 20s trio of two girls and a guy walking northward, away from the grandstand. The only smoker of the three was one of the girls, a wholesome cutie with her long strawberry red hair in a ponytail resting onto a pale green blouse with tight dark jeans on the bottom tucked into a pair of cowgirl boots. She couldn’t have possibly looked more “Missouri” and it was a hoot walking to her side watching her smoke her cigarette and interact with the nonsmoking guy and girl on both sides of her. I got the sense the guy was her boyfriend but couldn’t tell for sure. It was late enough in the evening that I wasn’t confident about the multiple pics I took not coming out blurry or dark, but I got some solid ones including a holding and dragging pic. Her style was solid but not showing off and everything about the sighting was intriguing without shaking me to my core….until the final quarter of her cigarette when she made her big move which was particularly timely for me for reasons I’ll explain below…..
Her group walked past this Harley Davidson vendor booth selling a variety of clothing with Harley branding. My redheaded smoker stopped right in front of the middle-aged couple peddling the products. With her cigarette hand, the redhead picked a jacket off the rack by the hanger, the butt end of her cigarette nearly touching the fabric of the clothes. Last winter, a video from 1982 circulated the web and the smoking fetish community, an old Charles Kuralt documentary on the rise of the shopping mall, with a suburban Kansas City mall profiled. In it, a 15-year-old girl named Pam who was a stereotypical 80s mall rat (and an adorable one at that) was constantly smoking cigarettes inside the mall, which was common at the time, but I was taken aback when she walked into a clothing store and started taking clothes off the rack with cigarette in hand, which seemed so far removed from the current cultural experience. Fast forward 36 years and I had my own redheaded early 20s version of “Pam” doing the same thing at the Missouri State Fair with seemingly nobody taking exception to it as she was chatting up the middle-aged vendors while wielding her cigarette only inches from their merchandise….
And while still holding the jacket, she proceeded to take a drag from her cigarette, exhaling it thoughtlessly and saturating the jacket with a haze of her secondhand smoke. Still conversing with the strangely oblivious vendors (maybe they were quietly shooting daggers at her for stinking up the clothes they were trying to sell), she took one final drag where the exhale wasn’t quite as scattershot before dropping the butt to the ground and crushing it out, treating the Harley vendors’ work area like her personal ashtray. The three of them talked to the vendors for another minute or so after that before pressing on, not buying anything but possibly rendering the merchandise they crossed paths with unsellable because of the stench of the redhead’s smoke seeping into the fabric. It was unbearably hot to witness and I had to wait for the vendors to be distracted by another would-be customer before I could walk past her butt and ID it as an L & M menthol. I never know what to expect from a sighting when I get my first look at it, but never in a thousand years would I have expected this!