From a distance there appeared to be at least six. Hanging around the vending machine, playing music and talking. A thick cloud of smoke hovered over them like a mini microclimate made up entirely of cannabis and tobacco.
I kept going. Having run out of cigarettes at 11pm there was no way I was waiting until 9am the following morning for my next fix.
No, I would steel myself, fix an un-threatening, un-confrontational look on my face and show no outward sign of trepidation or weakness.
As I approached they stopped talking and turned to stared at me.
Teenagers. Four young men and two women. They each wore the same black on black uniform with multiple facial piercings. Rings, spikes, studs. Explosive hair with the consistency of red granite. Goths.
The music sounded angry. I couldn’t tell about their mood.
They parted to give me access to the machine and then reformed. It was a pubescent, rebellious pincer movement which effectively trapped me inside. No words were spoken.
My heart raced as I fished in my pockets for the correct change waiting for the verbal abuse to start and hoping this was as far as it would go. Sticks and stones.
I fed the coins in and pressed the appropriate code. The machine burst into life and a coiled silver spring started turning. I watched as the red packet slowly edged forward towards the drop. It moved with a glacial speed. They were silent, only the music continued, fast, loud and aggressive.
The pack stopped and the machine returned to its pre-coined, impotent and inactive state. The packet hung there, suspended by nothing obvious. According to a robot brain somewhere in the metal box it had done its job. Only it hadn’t.
The cigarettes were fixed balancing between the end of the silver coil and the drop. It was defying gravity, taunting me in front of a restless nocturnal feral pack. Shit.
I shook the machine but it remained. I shook it harder and the pack just wobbled, still balancing precariously over the abyss, infuriatingly refusing to budge. I stood back and pondered my predicament. The vampire thugs watched me. I could sense the circle closing.
I jumped as I felt a hand touch my shoulder. It was the largest of the kids, broad shoulders, eye liner. His head appeared to be weaponised. If he bent down and head-butted me would I find out the spikes were tipped with a deadly frog poison?
‘Entschuldigen’ he said quietly and motioned for me to stand back which I did without question not entirely sure what he was going to do to me. Gore me with his head or lick me to death with his spiked and studded tongue?
He did neither. He stepped back and kicked the machine hard. Very hard.
Hard enough I imagined to set off an alarm deep in the 24hr vending machine central control room which I assumed had to exist somewhere.It was also hard enough to make the packet drop.
I watched as he quietly bent down to retrieve the small cardboard box which he handed to me with a polite nod and a respectful smile.
‘Thank you, I mean vielen dank ’ I stammered taking the packet from him. I stood there for a second not quite sure what to do next. The remaining ghouls glared at me so I quickly took my leave, not wishing to test my good fortune any further.
I left them there to their music and rebellion and walked quietly back to my apartment, smoking. I was smiling as another preconception shattered around me.
There are times when I really like the country I live in, Switzerland.
For all their music, hairdo’s and aesthetically rebellious appearances Swiss teenagers are just grown up versions of the little children I see every morning walking hand in hand to kindergarten wearing their yellow anti-traffic florescent vests. It’s going to take a lot more than some heavy rock, sex and drugs to sway your average Swiss seventeen year old.
Deep down, buried away beneath the clothes, the snarls and the cannabis they are still the friendly, law abiding, elder respecting kids they have been taught to be since birth.
And I for one like this.