Ah. I didn’t know Vienna was the self-proclaimed Coffee Capital. Marvellous.
Following my fourth delightful caffiene treat of the day, I strolled happily through the Museum Quartier. I was stopped by a woman in her thirties, who looked exremely distressed. She was babbling frantically in German and rummaging in her bag with the jumpiness of someone not all that well balanced, but she looked genuinely upset, so I chose to believe that she was not searching for a firearm.
I’m sorry, do you speak English? I asked in some concern. She switched languages immediately, her hand emerging from her bag, now holding a purse. I need to buy a cigarette from you, she said urgently, fumbling to open the purse. I laughed, relieved. Don’t be silly, you don’t need to buy it! I said as I opened my bag. She shook her head, looking determined, and pressed a Euro into my palm. It must be penalised! she insisted dramatically.
Erm… the cigarette? I asked, removing one from my pack. She nodded, her eyes never leaving the cigarette. Yes, she said edgily, I have quit, so I cannot buy my own packet. But today my boyfriend broke up with me and I lost my job, and if I do not have a smoke I will have to kill myself. Buying one is better than buying twenty.
And almost as good as killing yourself, I agreed with the genuine sympathy of one who has experienced these things, although admittedly not both on the same day. Hastily I gave her the ciggy and lit it for her. She inhaled deeply and almost collapsed at my feet, an expression of relief and ecstacy on her face. There’s a sort of unwritten rule amongst smokers, saying that if someone begs you for “just one” cigarette after they’ve openly admitted that they’re quitting, you must not give in, no matter how much you feel for them. However, I’ve added a sort of sub-clause, because I’ve been at the point of desperation that this woman had reached, and I know that sometimes “just one” will significantly improve matters. Buying that full packet is the clear indication that you have, once again, failed miserably. You want to put that off for as many months as you can, just to prolong the self-delusion and general misery.
We shared a couple of quiet moments together, smoking in solidarity. We are both women. We are both smokers. We have a bond. Then she smiled gratefully at me and moved on, leaving me staring miserably at the cigarette between my fingers. Is it a coincidence that this poor girl approached me on the very day that I had held up my cigarette packet and determinedly declared After this pack, I quit? She really didn’t inspire me with much confidence, in any case.But the decision was already made, and so there are only three more cigarettes to go.
I’m intrigued by the idea of selling to quitters, though. At that rate, I could make a profit of €15 for every pack I bought, rather than a loss of €5! All I’d have to do would be start targeting stressed-looking people on the streets. I bet at least 50% of them are ex smokers, who’d kill (or pay €1) for “just one” cigarette. In days when income is uncertain and the budget is tight, it’s certainly an idea…