Are We SSSmokin' Yet

By Rob James

As of February 1st it has been 501 days since I last put a cigarette to my mouth, hung it from my lip, lit it up and curled smoke into my eyes, blinding me as I sat typing at my computer, looking down at the keys as I did back then, and still do so today, but not smoking now, so I can now see what I'm typing. Unfortunately, maybe I shouldn't see what I'm typing. Maybe no one else should see what I'm typing.

I first started smoking as a 19 year old with those little black cigars the size of cigarettes that you did't dare inhale. I only did it because I didn't want to look like a geek around my way cool friends who all had cigs hanging from their lip. My first real cigarette came at a teen dance when a girl friend of my supposed girl friend handed me her lit cigarette as she went to dance. I asked her what should I do with it and she politely said "smoke it". Now my supposed girl friend hated the smell of those cigars I smoked (actually I did too) but she didn't mind the smell from her cigarettes so I took a puff. It wasn't bad compared to the cigars and it had an icy fresh feel in my lungs. I had my first cigarette, a menthol Kool, and I was feeling really grown-up, and well, kool! I didn't jump into them right away, but one day shortly after that fateful day, riding in a friend's car, my supposed girl friend started into me about the cigar smell, so I asked my friend Paul to pull into a nearby drug store and I bought a pack of Kools and made her day. Well needless to say the girl friend left my life but the cigarettes stayed. I was drafted into the Army in 1968 and I could buy a pack of cigarettes for a thin dime at the PX! After an hour or more of grueling basic training workouts they would yell "Take ten, light em if you got em, if you don't got em borrow one!" Great incentive to not smoke, hmm, maybe I have a basis for a lawsuit? I continued to smoke all through the army and out into civilian life, through many jobs, many moves around the state, two marriages and the birth of a son (I smoked three packs waiting for him to pop out). And all through the years I never thought to quit.

All of that changed as of September 17, 1996, I'm now a former smoker! No, I'm not one of those militant smoker who goes around with a loaded hand gun and blows away people who look like Joe Camel (RIP) or points a wicked finger at people who are smoking and say "Naughty, Naughty! You're going to die". I can still empathize with smokers and I still really get P.O'd at the government and the various health organizations that wants humanity to be smoke-free, HA! We'll all be smoke-free the same day that we are alchohol-free, drug-free, credit card-free, chocolate-free, porn-free, shopping-free, auto emission-free, bingo-free, daytime soap-free, and online chat-free (I could go on, but do you really want that? Do we really have the time?). California recently passed a ban on smoking in bars and the non-smoking employees applauded it. Last week I heard that California was reconsidering the law due to the huge number of those same employees now complaining that their tip money was cut drastically by the lack of patrons. One man on the radio said his income dropped by $300. a week. So California will either have to recind the law or end up paying unemployment to all those many people who lost their jobs due to lack of customers in the bars who are now sitting home drinking, playing music and SSSMOKIN!

Anyways, I quit smoking, cold turkey, ONLY because I was financially broke for a number of days and thought I would DIE without a cigarette, but I didn't. My parents, both loving and good people, quit smoking about 20 some years ago when they were my age, the same age I was when I quit over a year ago, 40-something. Looking back, I never even thought about it when I'd go to visit them, and I would sit there and puff away on my cigs and they would let me do so, being the good parents they were, to let my lungs fill with noxiuos fumes and stink up the room for them to live in after I left. After I quit I would enter a room where people have been smoking and now realized how lousy the smell is.

Another benefit of not smoking is having extra cash in your pocket. I'd reach into my pocket on a Thursday night and say "Whoa, where did this money come from?". I remember back a number of years saying to myself that if cigarettes ever cost more than $1.50 a pack I would quit, but that was back when I had money to support my habit. Cigarettes finally topped two dollars and I justified it by the fact that I still got a paycheck on Friday and would buy a carton at the discount store. Then cigarettes hit $2.50 and my two pack a day habit got a bit expensive at $35. a week especially at that time when my income was coming in irregular and flaky as to when I'd get any money. I would do some strange things to get the $5. for my daily fix of cigarettes. Then the time finally came when I was totally broke for a few days, quit smoking and stayed that way. Now when I have money it stays with me, unless I have to buy food or pay the bills, two things you can't quit cold turkey.

Today I honestly can't imagine that I actually smoked daily for 29 years and now the thought of putting a cigarette in my mouth seems odd. My son hasn't show any interest in smoking yet, but he's only 16 years old so he's is still classified as brain-dead (I started at 19, so I was just barely out of brain-dead). I'm not going to tell people who smoke that they should quit, as I used to get very annoyed when people did that to me, but I will encourage my son and anyone else who hasn't started smoking yet to just NOT start and hope they are smart enough to listen! Then when the day comes that I quit drinking beer, I'll warn them against that too, but one vice at a time please, as I have no other vices to quit, darn!


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