Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aquarium of Smoke

There is something about not smoking that really sucks. It has been years since I have smoked, and I can therefore say this with the authority manufactured from years of painstaking research. I would like to flippantly state that what sucks is the getting up in the morning, going through a series of daytime activities, and then going to bed...all without having a smoke. Though this observation would have more than a single irritating grain of truth it is not much of a pearl of wisdom; more like the high pitch whine of ill-adjusted nicotine receptors.

I'm writing this while sitting next to the smoker's cage at the Salt Lake City airport. It is a glass walled room where one can view smokers in their natural habitat. They look a lot like the folks sitting around me but, and this is a big but, they get to smoke. They even have the same faux-leather uncomfortable chairs I am sitting on.

The similarities are intriguing. The smokers are acting like they are not smoking; like they are doing something important and just happen to have a cigarette in their mouth or hand. I imagine if I went to have a smoke I would make some sort of great production out of it. A mariachi band would be nice; perhaps I could get one of those large-brimmed hats and attach burning cigarettes to it with short strings. I could play a game where I turned my head quickly from side-to-side and attempted to catch one of the cigarettes with my lips; extra points if I caught the filter end.

When I quit, what seems like a hundred and fifty years ago (and was -maybe- more like 8), I chewed nicotine gum for a while. I loved the gum. There was the unfortunate induction of the gag-reflex that a fresh piece would cause, but other than that the gum was the best stuff ever. I chewed it regularly for about a year, and then ran out while on a short road-trip. I tried to start up again, but I was not ready for the whole vomiting in public scene. I did not want to take up smoking again, so I quit.

The folks in the smoking cage make smoking look so inconsequential. Why are they not jumping about in various states of undress proclaiming the freedom and fulfillment they get to experience that quitters, like me, forgo. I could strip off my pants and show them a thing or two about smoking.

People used to talk about smoking after sex. Now that we know that the yellow-toothed ashtray-scented smokers are not more likely to be the target of nubile obsession the truth that people smoke instead of sex is revealed. Asking a smoker about sex is like asking a Southern Californian how cold it is; who cares?

I could go into the room and have a smoke. Unfortunately, if I bummed one off of somebody it would probably be a menthol. Sure it would be amazing to feel the rush of nicotine soaking into forgotten neural receptors. I bet I would hold the first puff into my lungs till the smoke was spent. The wave of elation would quickly be replaced by a wave of smooth muscle response. Would I vomit? Would I suffer uncontrollable diarrhea? Would I just by a pack or splurge for an entire carton?

When I started smoking cartons were $2.50. Now packs are $7.00 each!

When I started smoking cigarettes were probably good for you unless you had some rare condition. Now everyone is getting heart disease or cancer!

If I had a little caulk and a fire-hose I could fill that smoker cell with water. It looks tight. I could turn it from cage to aquarium as fast as I could fill it. Then the smokers would be treading water with their cigarettes held over their heads so that they would stay lit. I could watch them choosing every couple of strokes which they would take into their lungs; air or smoke. One could tell those smokers who were treating their habit with the respect it demands. Unfortunately that evidence might take the form of the true smokers sinking.

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