The Lonely Smoker

Rose Troup-Buchanan

Being a smoker is pretty great. Aside from the whole health-related ‘issues’ entailed with polluting your lungs with nicotine, it offers a myriad of fantastic benefits. Principal among these is the ability to absent yourself from any bum-numbingly dull conversation, citing your love of nicotine.

Recently my vague addiction has come in special use, as it has allowed me to stumble (mentally screaming) from any conversation concerning ‘The Future’. TF Anxiety may relate to all activities looming on the horrific horizon of graduation, and/or discussion of plans pertaining to last longer than the Mayan calendar.

Unfortunately, as it appears the Mayans were rather misguided on the whole end of the world front, Christmas this year is being approached by most in a decidedly un-festive manner. Instead of unwrapping commercially vapid tinsel chocolates every morning, most third-years are marking the calendar down with the dates left to apply to whatever graduate scheme might employ them.

As I am yet to apply for any kind of future employment/life scheme, I’ve started to treat these conversations as less terrifying and more with a detached anthropological fascination towards researching TF Anxiety.

I’ve realised there seems to be two courses of action available to the third-year student. The first, and most obvious, is my approach wherein you flail screaming from any mention or allusion to the imminent monstrosity. This reaction tends to also encompass partaking in hugely inappropriate activities, such as yoga, daytime drinking, or flirtation with those significantly younger than you.

The second course of action is to treat the entire operation with the stealth usually credited only to the intelligence services. Listening to some of my friends talk, anyone would think that MI5 were receiving more applications than the Queen gets Christmas cards.
It’s like a rather dubious Fight Club. The only rule about Grad Schemes is that you don’t talk about Grad Schemes.

As a result of my friends dodging my questions with the skill and verbal elegance usually seen only in the terminally unfaithful or your average politician, I presently have absolutely no idea where or what the majority of them are applying for.

This attitude may result from a misplaced fear I might steal their place. The fact that most of these schemes have thousands of applicants, and are advertised as plain as day via the Careers Service, doesn’t appear to have percolated through most peoples’ grey matter. Neither does the consideration that I am more incompetent at retaining information than a goldfish on LSD.

It’s a bit like the fat people you see in McDonalds: after ordering a Big Mac, with cheese, and chips, and some kind of sugar-saturated pink doughnut, they finally order a Diet Coke. Some say blind rejection of reality, others say they prefer the taste.

The real problem with TF Anxiety is that it is now invading me from every single angle. Sucking down nicotine outside the library, my smoke-infused enjoyment was interrupted by the arrival of people.

In a manner similar to the the behaviour when you met a newborn child (currently bearing a closer resemblance to Shrek and with similar hygiene/mucous related issues) I am now forced to sycophantically coo over various friends’ recent employment. That a friend might have previously expressed desires for arty gallery ownership, and is instead now on the Aldi graduate scheme is, apparently, not the point.

Maybe it’s best we don’t know all about our friends applications. Sometimes too much information is just too much information. As a friend observed in the swimming pool changing room, the profoundly naked lady drying herself with a hairdryer in front of the mirror was really all just a little too much.

Don’t be that naked lady. Keep quiet, apply away, and for Christ’s sake let me smoke in peace.

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