Diaries of a cigarette girl: Part 2


Guest writer Chelsea regales us with her first forays into the wild world of booze in this multipart series.

My first night on the job as a cigarette girl, wearing a blue and purple satin dress with a high collar and a very short skirt, I was dropped with no training nor guidance into a neighborhood bar on Union Street in San Francisco’s Marina district. My driver gave me a pep talk on the ride over: “Your first bar is where you’re born.” My birthplace was a crowded, noisy bar below street level, teaming with loud white guys in button-down shirts, and pretty blond girls drunkenly dancing on tables as “Sweet Caroline” blared from the jukebox. I clumsily made my way through the crowd with my tray held over my head, struggling to integrate myself into the affluent, conservative, hard-partying crowd, who reminded me a little too much of the popular kids in high school. I tried my best to smile, but my nervous, awkward interactions with the carefree bar patrons did not help me sell any cigarettes. Quietly standing in a corner, I waited for customers to approach me.

Later that night I found myself in a large, multi-level bar near Fisherman’s Wharf, a tourist-oriented neighborhood on the waterfront. As I walked downstairs to the bar’s lower level, a lady bartender in a tank top and a baseball cap shouted to me, “Hey PEACHY! Wanna trade a lollipop for a shot?” I was quickly learning one of the keys to success in this job was to maintain the impression that: (1) I had a lot in common with my customers, and (2) I was having as much fun as they were. Taking a shot seemed like the correct action to take. With a smile on my face, I approached the bar, lollipop in hand.

When the bartender asked what I wanted, I drew a blank. A shot of…uhhhh…what? What do people do shots of? I couldn’t even try to guess, but was not about to ask, for fear of revealing my complete lack of experience (which, in retrospect, was probably obvious anyway). “How about something sweet,” the bartender suggests. “Do you like Jäger?” I say, sure! I had no idea what Jäger was, but understood that this was something people took shots of, and that I was going to drink it. After a couple reluctant sips, I jumped in headfirst, downing the stingingly sweet liquid with a wince. Instantly I felt my legs tingle and my shoulders begin to relax. An easy smile quickly spread across my face as I handed her the Blow-Pop and said, “Thanks!”

Walking up the stairs to the dance floor, tightly gripping the handrail, I felt a warm wave of euphoria wash over my entire body. “This,” I thought, “must be what it means to be drunk.” I crossed the dance floor under the tacky multi-colored lighting, and experienced some pleasure in hearing the latest Madonna single blaring out of the tinny speakers. Approaching potential customers and chatting was suddenly effortless. I was relaxed, confident, happy, and ready to do this job forever. I was having fun, even.

To be continued next Thursday…