Sometimes, I wish I smoked. Not because I used to be dangerously addicted to nicotine, think my clothes smell a little too much on the fresh side or just plain hate my lovely, healthy lungs, but because if you smoke it’s easier to do stuff on your own without looking like a burglar, stalker or sex pest.
Like waiting. Wait anywhere on your own for more than a few minutes and people frantically start to study you to see where you’ve got the knife hidden. Wait in the same place, for the same amount of time puffing on a cigarette and people look at you with admiration, like you’re Humphrey Bogart in a movie waiting to go home and get busy with Ingrid Bergman, just as soon as you’ve finished your smoke.
Today, after work, I went to the park to read a book for a while. On my own. I wasn’t passing or stopping off on my way back from somewhere more exciting; I planned to go and be on my own in a public place for an extended period of time. I’m not sure when I decided it had become okay to actually go and do things like this without at least one other person in tow, but I didn’t even feel embarrassed. It’s okay, I thought, I’ve got a novel, I’ve got on my Hawaiian shorts and flip-flops – I must look normal. Probably even look a bit, cool?
The park was heaving. The sun had enticed absolutely everyone out – there were probably actual burglars, stalkers and sex pests there – and so I sat in one of the only available spaces. On one side was an intimidating group of ‘yoofs’ with their shorts riding ‘prison style’ on the wrong side of their arse cracks, who were quite blatantly chugging on a massive bong of illegal drugs. The other side: a hot-looking blonde, on her own. Not smoking.
As I sat down, I noticed the scary group glancing over at me every now and again. They moved the bong out of sight – they’d clearly noticed that I was both on my own and not smoking. Someone else went over and joined the group. He reached out as if to grab the bong, but was stopped in his tracks by another in the group, who gestured in my direction and simply said, “CID”.
CID? I looked down at my threads. I saw the Hawaiian shorts. Still there, still cool. And the flip-flops. Fine, they’re normal. And a T-shirt with a tiger on it – again, how could you go wrong? And yet, apparently, I look like I’m on my way to an audition for The Bill.
Clearly uncomfortable in the presence of an officer of the law, even such a snappily attired one, the entire group got up and moved about 20 feet away, laughing, joking, jeering, and all the while looking back at me to check what I was doing. This would definitely not have happened if I’d been smoking, I thought.
The hot blonde was still sitting on her own. I looked over, as if to say, “ha, kids eh?” After a moment’s eye contact, she lit a cigarette and looked away.