The experience with Mrs. Bailey and the handwriting fiasco really took its toll on me. Looking back at it now I realize it almost drove me to create a horrible habit that I could have had the rest of my life. Thank goodness the habit did not manifest itself in any way….and it was quite by accident that the habit did not maintain.
It was during my time in Ohio that I really realized that smoking was cool. I mean, my Dad smoked and even my Mom smoked at parties my parents would have. I think she smoked just because and I maybe saw her smoke 5 or 6 times so it never was a serious issue with her. But, she did smoke and I thought it was pretty cool that both of my parents smoked. The thing is, I was going to try it. I did know enough to realize that I was too young to try it and my parents would probably be upset if I did, so I had to create a plan with a friend of mine from school. She wanted to try it too…so we thought it would be safe to try it together. Away from the prying eyes and talkative mouths of others.
Our plan was simple. Or so we thought. I would take a cigarette packet from my Dad’s dresser, or wherever I could find one because they did seem to be prolific around our house so surely Dad wouldn’t notice. And if I did take it he certainly wouldn’t think it was me! On the day we decided to be cool and smoke I grabbed a cigarette packet and ran out the door to meet my friend. We decided to go down to our local Piggly Wiggly store and stay out in the parking lot to try our first cigarette. My friend had brought the lighter that had belonged to her Dad so we could light the cigarettes.
We were both so excited about our adventure we could hardly take it. Neither of us ever did anything as bold as this so this definitely was an important day for us! Smoking was so cool and since up to this time, my friend and I were not in the cool zone at school…this would for sure put us there if people knew we smoked! But we had to try it first to make sure we could pass for a normal smoker!
It was our choice that I would go first but we soon realized that it would be too dangerous to smoke out in the middle of the parking lot at Piggly Wiggly. Our only option was to go in to the phone booth in pretty much the middle of the parking lot if I remember correctly. I was to go first while my friend stood outside the phone booth to be the overlook to make sure nobody was suspecting us and doing something we weren’t supposed to do. As I made my way into the phone booth my stomach was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up. My heart was racing as I had never done anything as alarming as this, up to this point in my life.
But I forged ahead through my mind and pulled out the pack of unfiltered Camels (of course at the time I had no idea what unfiltered meant) and all the sudden felt cool as I put a cigarette in my mouth and tried to think how Dad looked when he had a cigarette in his mouth. I lit the lighter quickly and put it up to the cigarette and really pretty easily lit the cigarette. Fantastic. While the cigarette was still in my mouth I tried to remember what the next step might be so I continued to think of what my Dad did once he lit the cigarette. Oh yeah, he sucked in hard and made a funny face when he did…so I did the same thing. I sucked in hard and made a funny face…and BOY DID THAT WORK.
I immediately realized that I was dying. My sucking in caused me to inhale something…like smoke or something and my esophagus and lungs lit on FIRE…I mean FIRE. I remember specifically looking at my friend that was standing outside the phone booth looking at me smiling like she was proud of me for taking this major first step in my life. If she only knew. And quickly she did. I was looking at her when I realized that I might just be taking the last breath of my life and she knew something was WRONG. She must have seen my burning eyes get bigger and bigger and scarier and scarier.
It was so bad and the burning was so so bad inside my chest I came pouring out the phone booth screaming. “I’m…I’m dying!” It must have really scared my friend but I was dying and I knew that if I was going to survive this moment I was never going to smoke again. Talk about a day that really changed my life forever, that day in the phone booth with the cigarette and lighter was IT!