Saturday, February 26, 2011

Curiosity can leave a nasty taste in the mouth


The whole world knows what a dreadful week it's been in Christchurch. My own daughter was there and has thankfully escaped to a safer area. Frightened people have been evacuating the area and catching a plane to anywhere - except there. People all over the country are offering their homes as billets to complete strangers who are wanting to escape the trauma inflicted by Mother Nature rattling her children. I know friends who are about to have a family of 7 added to their household in the next day or so. I'd been worried sick about a former student of mine, K. She's a stroppy teenager at times but I love her to bits and it was a relief to get a call asking if I could pick her up from the airport and have her for the night.

We detoured to some friends' for dinner and it quickly became apparent that the stuffing had pretty much been knocked out of this kid. She had no belongings, she was separated from her family, she was scared, she hadn't seen fresh water for days...and she needed a cigarette. My attitude to smoking has always been pretty negative, especially in kids but if ever I saw someone who needed a smoke, it was K. My friend S and I exchanged glances and, unspoken, we made a decision to go to the local shop and get a nicotine fix for our young friend. The concept of roll your owns, filters and papers flew right over my head so we asked her what she'd smoke if we got her something ready made (is that the right terminology?).
K: "B & H"
Me: "Huh?"
S: "I think that's Benson and Hedges"
Me: (thinking inside my head) Sounds like a gardening and landscaping business.

Knowing what to ask the man at the shop for, I felt pretty confident when I stepped up to the counter. Since I haven't bought a pack of smokes since I was 14 and tried it out in the ladies' loos at Devonport Beach, I was feeling a little naughty so I figured the best approach would be to swagger up and casually ask for a pack of Benson and Hedges. Maintain a nonchalant demeanor - as if I pop into the shops and by fags on a regular basis. It would be easy.
Man at counter: "Sure, what kind would you like?"
Me: "Wha??!?"
S: "Ummm...what have you got?"
Me: "They come in different flavours??"
The man proceeded to prattle off a list of information that had my head spinning. It was just like going into a Subway store and being asked what kind of mayo I'd like on my salad. It was all too much. I panicked. S interrupted my hyperventilating and pointed randomly. We both attempted to look innocent and vehemently claimed that they weren't for US! We were buying them for someone else. We weren't going to touch a single smoke, no siree. We're not smokers...nasty, filthy things!

As we left the shop with our contraband I jammed the pack down my bra. It was instinct. S insisted that I didn't have to hide them so I took them out and had a look at the pack. That's when a cunning plan ticked over in my head.
Me: "Let's SMOKE ONE!!!!" S wasn't too keen.

Once we got back to K I hovered...then - and I'm not proud of this - I asked this 16 year old seasoned smoker to show me what to do. Meanwhile, Beloved is an avid anti smoker. I knew he wouldn't be best pleased so naturally I hid under S's patio table with my vice. My vice was not nice. I choked, I swallowed, I persevered. It's just a pity that I hadn't counted on the smoke billowing up from K's knees where I was crouched down on the pavers, torturing my virgin lungs. My Beloved and S's Beloved heard stifled giggles. They could smell smoke. They looked out the kitchen window. My Beloved quickly understood that smoke coming from a girl's knees and an obscured wife was not a good sign.
I asked K to teach me how to do this. I "sucked" at it.

Incidentally, I never did smoke those cigarettes I bought when I was 14. I got as far as opening the packet of Pall Mall (my dad's brand), heard someone coming, dropped the lot in the stainless steal handbasin and ran. A complete waste of two weeks' pocket money! However, I have exaggerated slightly in saying that my lungs were virgin. Sometime in 2006 I found a shiny new cigarette lying on the ground. Curiosity got the better of me and...'nuf said.
I blame my childhood hero for leading me "ashtray"
So I've decided, smoking is icky. Tic Tacs don't take the taste away and carbonated pink grapefruit drink only added insult to the injury.
Looks classy, eh?

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