When envisaging a pint at the pub with your friends, an image of you sitting alone at a sticky table memorising the cocktail menu and flipping beer mats isn’t the first you want to spring to mind. It might, however, be a familiar one if you are the only member of your friendship group that doesn’t smoke, socially or otherwise.
You’ll spend so much time apologising that no, you don’t have a lighter, papers, filters, or bacci that you begin to wonder whether in fact you should just carry them in order to solve the perennial problem that, in every packed smoking area, not one smoker will have all the requisite items for their desired cigarette.
But this in itself is part of the draw of smoking. It gives you a reason to approach people you otherwise would have no idea what to say to and a shared interest of being willing to stand outside for your habit. Hell, if you find that the person you stand hunched next to uses menthol papers then bloody marry them. They are the one for you, in inevitable sickness and in unlikely health.
Never before than within the uncomfortable and often awkward social hub of university has such a social crutch emerged. At any social gathering, watch the boy (Rachael’s friend’s housemate’s mate?) who has sat mutely by the corner of the table for two hours rise like Lazarus with his packet of American Spirit at mention of ducking outside for a cigarette. Entire relationships can be forged in the six-metre squared smoking areas across Manchester.
If you’re confused as to why half of your flatmates get on better, or have started having ‘hilarious’ in-jokes, then a quick glance at how many Bic lighters lie scattered across their floor will give you some answers. Of course, there’s no point in being self-righteous. Many people who criticize those who smoke take the smoker’s break as an opportunity to go to the bar, forcing about three litres of hard liquor upon their wailing kidneys as they grimace at the pictures of dead people on their friend’s Marlboro packet. (I feel for the moustached guy with the throat tumour—maybe he grew that fabulous facial hair to distract and failed miserably.)
In fact, maybe when looking around the poorly-lit and increasingly empty dancefloor, it’s worth taking yourself out to the smoking area and see what social delights are offered there; you’ll be surprised at what creatures you may find.