October 27, 2010

I Paid $1.00 for one cigarette tonight

Broke girl knows value when she sees it.

A neatly-dressed man mumbled something in my direction as I stepped up to the door of a 7-Eleven store tonight.

"What did you say?" figuring him for a beggar wanting cash.

He spoke louder, "Do you have a cigarette?"

"No, I don't," I said, and went into the store. While the clerk rang up my caffeine-free Diet Coke, I looked up at the prices posted over the cigarettes behind the counter. Something like $9.95 and such.

"Do you sell single cigarettes?" I asked the tall skinny kid behind the counter.

"Uh, nope," he replied, and kind of laughed at the notion.

"Well, there's that guy outside who wants one. Do you smoke?" I asked. He looked like a kid who did.

"Well, yeah." he replied.

"Could I buy two cigarettes from you? I asked, and pushed a dollar across the counter toward him.

He smiled as he pulled a pack out from under the counter and handed a single cigarette to me. "No, no money," he insisted. "I get it."

"No, keep the dollar," I said.

"No no, really, keep it," the clerk insisted.

But I said, "Thanks, I appreciate it," and left the dollar on the counter. Walked out the door, turned toward the guy, still off to the side of the entrance and said, "Here's a cigarette."

As he took it he said, "Thanks. Here's fifty cents," and reached his other hand out to me.

"Oh no; no money," I said as I turned toward my car. He thanked me again and quickly disappeared down the street.

I don't know why that man needed a smoke. Maybe he'd lost his wallet. But I'm glad I extended a bit of kindness, even though making that personal connection involved nasty nicotine. I'm glad I did it, just as much as I hope he will find it in him to quit smoking right soon.

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