DRIVING along the home stretch later than usual this evening, I wanted to get some cigarettes but noticed my local Kwik-E-Mart was already closed. That meant I had to do something all partakers truly dread. No, I don’t mean quit. I mean buy a packet from a servo. Darts are unspeakably steep at supermarkets but at petrol stations they’re pricier than Cubans (the people as well as the cigars). Smokers who aren’t James Packer only resort to this when they’re drunk – servo cigs being cousins only once removed from kebabs that way – but I haven’t been a taxi-carted, intoxicated tearaway craving nightcap nicotine for yonks.
Anyway, I figured as long as I didn’t make a habit of it, splashing out this once wouldn’t hurt much more than usual. So I drove in, topped up the tank with 20 dollars’ worth and then strolled in to what must be the latest, flashest iteration of the old golden fleece. The cashier was of sub-continental extraction and had a proprietor’s mien. “Win Gold 20s too, please,” I said. He pressed the cash register’s buttons, an absurd total was displayed and he awaited a tap. In the Old Days, tall rows of beautifully boxed Camels and Johnny Players were as visible behind counters as Kama Sutras for children now are at Big W. Only after I paid did Winfields fall from the drab cabinet of unseeable (but taxable) taboos into a drawer beneath. Handing them over almost magnanimously, Vijay explained the new system prevented tobacco walk-offs.