The First Time I Bought A Pack of Cigarettes

Beautiful white bleeding heart flowers in full bloom.

I really surprised myself the first time I bought a pack of cigarettes.

Wheeling into the parking lot at Dollar General to buy cat food I pulled into a parking spot and jumped out of the car and hustled in.

Rushing past the counter I looked over my shoulder and noticed the checkout line had about 6 people in various positions of haste and impatience waiting in line.

I quickly found the bag of food to save the kitty’s 9 lives and headed with focus and intent to take my place along with the waiting shoppers.

I occupied my time in line by looking at the various types of bubble gum arranged strategically where I was standing. Did you know Starburst candy makes strawberry bubble gum? I mean seriously! Who knew?

Starburst AND bubble gum! It’s a perfect marriage of flavor and merchandising!

In 7th grade, Starburst strawberry bubble gum would have DEFINITELY been a thing with me.

My friend Laurel and I would fill our mouth with wads of grape BUBBLE YUM. After we’d smacked and gnawed our way through the sugar and the gum had reached a nice smooth consistency, standing shoulder to shoulder we’d lean into the mirror and watch ourselves as we slowly blew bubbles so large that when they burst we’d have to pick the remnants from the curls around our face or off the mirror.

I don’t think kids blow bubbles any more. They just play Candy Crush, maybe.

I have no idea how many times I heard my mother say that I was blowing those big bubbles into air absolutely filled with all kinds of germs.

I’ve been called a germaphobe. Maybe I am. You know, I was educated about the germs floating in air just waiting to attach themselves to my beautiful bubbles. “Definitely don’t blow bubbles at the barn or NEVER in the chicken house. In fact, just hold your breath. Don’t inhale that dust that the chickens flick up with their spurs!” I guess Mother knew she’d use every tactic possible to get all ten of us raised.

Now this post isn’t about what you should do about germs or blowing bubbles or holding your breath or smoking for that matter.

But I was surprised the first time I bought a pack of cigarettes.

In fact, I won’t even tell you not to smoke. That’s between you and your lungs and possibly your kids… but if you smoke around me, I will hold my breath. And when you leave a vapor trail, I will hold my breath and wait until it dissipates.

That has nothing to do with you and your choices. But it’s about me and my lungs. Mother didn’t want us inhaling or ingesting germs. (Refer to previous paragraph for reference.?) I guess I took it to heart.

I could describe to you the 3 customers directly in line ahead of me but for sake of time, let’s just start with the seemingly frail and fragile lady directly in front of me.

Her pajama pants puddled on the floor hiding her shoes. A large winter coat was overlapped around her torso and held in place by her arms crossed at the elbows. A beanie cap was slouched over her head and draped down her neck. She cast me a sideways glance and we exchanged congenial grins.

When it was her turn to pay I heard her discussing the amount with the cashier. She said she would use a card and then pay the balance with cash.

The cashier said, “Your balance is $4.03.”

“What? That can’t be right! “

Then she proceeded to tell the cashier exactly where she got the card and exactly how much was on it and exactly how much of it she’d spent and her balance left to pay couldn’t be $4.03.

Then she turned and explained it to me. I nodded knowingly.

So the cashier agreed to try the card again and again. And each time there was an explanation of the exact use of the card. And she began to dig in her purse all while saying there should be more on the card and she didn’t have enough change for the balance. And she continued to explain and frantically dig for change.

Life is like that sometimes. Isn’t it?

The unexpected happens…life doesn’t go as planned and inspite of your best efforts it leaves you exclaiming that it’s just not right and digging digging for answers and still coming up short… needing a redeemer.

There have been times I was in that woman’s shoes, counting change to make it thru.

And never mind the counting change part…I’ve known that sting of things just not turning out like you thought.

We’d never spoken…only exchanged congenial grins.

I stepped up next to her and leaned in, like Laurel and I used to do when we blew those big bubbles into the germ infested air.

And I spoke. “Hey! There’ve been times I’ve needed a helping hand. How ’bout you give the cashier the 3 cents and I’ll give her $4?”

“Oh, oh you would do that? You don’t have to do that. Are you sure? I’ll definitely pay this forward.”

Then as her voice lifted to full volume, she said, “Ma’am do you smoke?”

I felt several sets of eyes in line behind me roll my direction, waiting for my response.

No, I don’t smoke.

You don’t smoooOOKKEe? That’s wonderful! Have you EVER smoked?”

“No, not ever. I work really hard at keeping my lungs clean.” I said.

I didn’t figure she wanted to hear about germs attaching themselves to adolescent girls’ bubbles and holding your breath in the chicken house.

She twirled around several times with her hand on her slouched hat and I heard her exclaim as she rushed out the glass doors, “God bless yoooou.!! I smoke to keep my sanity!”

And she was gone.

The cashier seemed relieved to have that transaction completed.

I paid for the food to give our cat 9 more lives.

As the cashier handed me the change from my cat food purchase, I said, “Well it looks like I just bought a pack of cigarettes. That’s a first for me.”

I was really surprised the first time I bought a pack of cigarettes. And if you smoke, that’s between you and your lungs and possibly your kids…

Helping others… that’s how I keep my sanity.

They were Marlboro.

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8 thoughts on “The First Time I Bought A Pack of Cigarettes”

  1. Ooooh, Rachel!! You are so funny and sweet and kindhearted all wrapped up in one! I love both the memories and you! Thanks for ‘fessing up and sharing it with us! I loved reading and laughing about your blog post!

  2. Yup, life is just full of surprises like that. No judging, but your mother had high expectations. I had to be in the chicken barn for more than an hour a day when I was growing up. If I’d held my breath all that time, I’d have real lung problems by now. Lol. I loved reading this, Rachel.

    1. Hahaha!!! Dorothy, I know what you mean about not being able to hold your breath for an hour at a time!! It was more about awareness of cleanly habits and their effects to our bodies,than anything.

  3. I was surprised too when you bought your first package of cigarettes. Just think how big your bubblegum bubbles were because you always protected your lungs.
    Have a good day, keep writing and inspiring with your humor and wisdom.

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