A Sign of Evolution

I’m sure I mentioned this before but, I used to smoke.

Like a freakin’ chimney.

At the top of my game I smoked three packs of non-filtered cigarettes a day. But then I realized that I didn’t really have that kind of free time.

When I started smoking, at the completely appropriate age of fourteen years old, it seemed like one of the most socially acceptable vices ever conceived. It was easy to buy smokes with your allowances, because they were cheap and readily available in vending machines. You never got busted, mostly because no one cared.

Me and my buddie, Lefty and Sing-Sing Tommy just killing time outside The Gap. The good old days

Me and my buddies, Lefty and Sing-Sing Tommy just killing time outside The Gap. The good old days

I’m serious, literally not one adult gave a rodents rear-end when they saw kids smoking. At least not enough to do more than grumble about those damned delinquents with nothing better to do but hang around the malls in their black denim jackets smoking cigarettes.

That’s right you could smoke in the mall.

You could smoke pretty much anywhere. In restaurants nonsmokers would huddle in small, cramped separatist camps, the boundaries of their clean little world clearly demarcated by signs on brass poles, open doorways, and (if you were in a real classy joint) velvet ropes. All of seemed things seemed sufficient to ward off dreaded second-hand smoke.

Things started to get a little serious just before the time I was old enough to buy cigarettes legally. Someone shouted, “Think of the children!” and so they got tough on sales to minors. I got carded once or twice but that was easy to get around. Most of the Einsteins they had jockeying registers couldn’t imagine a seventeen year old being ballsy enough to present there driver’s license in expectation that they weren’t going to be paying enough attention to notice he was a minor. Either that or they really sucked at math.240px-No_smoking_symbol

Also I started noticing a lot more of these odd little signs every where.

Flash forward a couple of years and by the time I was in my mid twenties the tables had turned. These signs were practically everywhere and it was smokers being herded to a few scant tables in the dark recesses of local eateries. Gone were the tall sand filled ashtrays that once lined the halls at local shopping centers. My friends and I would constantly complain how it wasn’t fair. We talked with some indignation about some imagined rights of ours being overlooked, ignored, and just plain violated.

Time passed, I grew older. I became a homeless wastrel, faced the harsher realities of life. At some point you see that there is more to existence than when and where you can smoke. So when, after I spent sometime getting my crap together, the state I reside in decided to outlaw smoking in restaurants I didn’t take it as a personal insult. I did think it was dumb that it became a matter of legislation rather than the property owner’s choice but whatever. So it became that you could only smoke outside. Well, except if your standing outside the airport waiting for your ride.


No smokes, no gum. Now your screwed

Their really cracking down on this second-hand chewing thing.

Eventually I quit smoking. Not because anyone was making harder to do, because lets face it they’re not. You can still get all the nicotine you want at your corner drugstore.  I quit because it was bad for me and I was tired of doing it.

The thing that got me thinking about all of this was on my way to work I saw this sign I had never seen wpid-img_20150325_125033.jpgbefore. It caught my eye and made me think.

I started wonder if this was some sort of symbol of us evolving as a society. That we didn’t have to bother telling people that they couldn’t smoke somewhere anymore, because it was just expected that you couldn’t. That finally we have accepted that the health of the many, might outweigh the desires of the few.

It was in that moment I realized how fortunate it is that we, as a society, have finally sorted out where people can and can not stand while smoking.

With any luck and another couple of decades or so worth of work we can finally deal with smaller social justice issues, like poverty or civil rights. That would be nice. Maybe we could get a couple of guys to get some real work done with public education, you know if we can spare them.

Anyway, that’s what I spent some time thinking about in the past week.

Happy Monday.

P.S.: Can someone go get a ladder and help me down off this horse?

Photo of newsies smoking by Lewis Hine and is in the public domain.

No Smoking placard pictured at the right side of this article modified from
No Smoking Sign by Zubi CC BY-SA 3.0  

No Such Thing

“There is No Such Thing As Quit.”

That is what my father told me a few years before he died of lung cancer. He smoked for the entire time I knew him even while he was sick and dying, with breathing oxygen through a tube in his nose. He smoked right up until his breathing was too shallow to make it worth the effort, but by then he had morphine to help prevent him from caring to much about that.

It’s been almost two years since I stopped smoking; I had tried several time in the previous  25 years but it just never took. Quitting smoking seemed to get harder with every attempt. Tired, angry, and confused, became the normal state and I’m not sure how I made past the first few days. On day one I got to work and there was no coffee. Nicotine withdrawal, no caffeine and there I was surrounded by razor-sharp knives, lot’s of open flame,  what might have been (given the circumstances) the largest collection of aggravating people you could find without dealing directly with the government. Fortunately no one went to the hospital or jail so I was willing to mark it as a success.

Failure is an option

One of the hardest things is, that it is almost considered acceptable to cheat about it. In fact no one will hold it against you if you just start smoking again. People are so supportive of your decision, even most other smokers; but they all understand how hard it is to quit and if you “fall off the wagon”, well that’s OK at least you tried. 

“How long did you make it? Well that was a great try.”

“I’d have never lasted that long.”

“Aw, you were doing so well, what happened?” 

“Better luck next time man. Hey, can I bum one of those.”

All of the above is a bunch of bovine dung.

I’ve never told anyone but my wife this, I once bought one of those electronic cigarettes. I felt like such a coward for using it. Really if your going to breath in an addictive chemical, you might as well have some kind of health risk attached to it. Besides, now you have two groups of people who think you look like a schmuck, smokers and nonsmokers.

Finally There

The long haul of not smoking has been very easy, after the first few weeks. I got to a point where people don’t annoy me, more than they used to. However, even today I have little moments. I’ll be standing in a check out line and I’ll realize I am staring absent mindedly at cigarette display, or I’ll step out onto the side-walk and start searching my pockets for a pack of smokes that aren’t there.

I think I became a nonsmoker on the day that these small behaviors no longer bothered me. I’d like to think that this was what my dad meant about there not being such a thing as quit, that there are just things that stick with you no matter what. After all it was something I did for over half my life, it’s just a bit normal to miss having the habit. Now there are times I look at myself and wonder, how many toothpicks I go through each day.


 I’m betting it’s a lot.

This post was inspired by a daily prompt.