Register Thursday | September 20 | 2018

A Smoker's Declaration

One day I will quit.

As a people of sound mind and rational thought (yeah, right), we hold these truths to be self-evident, that although all men, and women, are created equal—not really, some of us are smarter, or better looking, or born into wealthier homes with more opportunity, but we should be viewed equally, though we are not, so you get the point—that they are endowed by their Creator—whether that be a He or She, God or Brahma, the Universal Quilt, or Vishnu, perhaps the Great Spirit, or a babble of chemicals that hit with such force in a primal stew of explosive kinetic potential that life began—with certain unalienable—not inalienable, but unalienable—Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

And that although the pursuit of Happiness seems, on the surface, to be a noble and worthy pursuit, it can often be short-sighted. Happiness is a fleeting thing. Ask someone what they want out of life and they will inevitably say that they want to be happy, but most people don’t know what form, or from what, that happy will be. For every moment of Happy, you are guaranteed a moment of Sad, of Indifference, of Pain, of Loss, of Ecstasy, of Love, of Infinite Possibility. Perhaps all men, and women, should yearn for the pursuit of Contentedness, which underlies all things. Contentedness is Satisfaction, is At Ease, is Health, is Trust. If you are Content, you can pursue Happiness, run into Devastation and still survive. But that is beside the point. If Happiness is the term, then that’s what we begin with.

Happy is a vague notion, and, as Ben Johnson said of Beauty, presents it self in different dresses to different viewers. For some of us, Happiness is a warm blanket (thanks Snoopy). For others it is a loving touch. For even more it is financial security. And for some, some like me, Happiness is a fresh drag on a newly lit cigarette. Some of us smoke, and some of us don’t, but the whole crusade against tiny butts has waged far beyond what is reasonable. As a people of sound mind and rational thought (again, yeah, right) we should be able to come to a few understandings.

When I am outside smoking, after I’ve procured my place, and you choose to sit downwind of me, which is your right, you cannot wave your hand in front of your face like you’re shooing an insect. You cannot cough dramatically like I just passed you a STD, or gave you emphysema. You can, however, of your own free will, choose not to sit next to me. You saw the fag in my hands; you saw the smoke from my mouth. What did you think I was doing there? Should you choose to do so, you can stay indoors forever. It’s a dangerous world, and stepping outside may lead you to nasally inject pollutants and low grade poisons. Be safe. Stay indoors.

If I am enjoying the satisfaction of an afternoon butt, you cannot approach me with relevant scientific information. “You know, those things will kill you?” I think, I’m sorry, were you under the impression that you fucking know me? I could, of course, comment a thousand ways about the manner in which you’ve endangered your soul and happiness and not lived up to your potential in life, instead choosing to coast on the safe sides of life, scared to put your foot in the stew, but I don’t. This is a very American approach. We don’t worry about the state of our souls, what this all means. Did you run or workout today? How do you look? Did you just do it? Are you giving 110%, or appearing to give 110%, 110% of the time? Do you have the right look? The right girl or guy? The right house? Were your kids accepted to the right prestigious preschool? Have you worked your fingers to the bone, your heart to a clog, your mind to utter mush? You have? Then you are good. Those bastard smokers, if only they would quit they would be happy.

You cannot walk up to me and say that you really don’t smoke that much, but is it cool if you bum one off me? Are you out of your mind? Do you know how much these things cost now? I’m not giving you a $10 bill and I sure as hell am not passing out free cigarettes. The price hike in New York changed the dynamic for pinching a butt, and you damn well knew that before you sauntered up hoping to guilt me into parting with my chosen habit.

You cannot tell me how you quit cold turkey after 95 years of smoking. I don’t care. You are Superman and I am a pussy, now either give me a light or go away. There are a thousand other protocols to smoking, but we will leave it there for now.

See, here’s the thing, I know smoking is not the best thing in the world, in my heart of hearts I will admit that I want to quit. But I also love it. Adore it. I love the image of smoking, I love how I feel with a cigarette in my hand, I like the mental picture in my head, I like people who smoke (people who don’t smoke seem, I don’t know, a little weird), I like that first hit when the nicotine plays dodgeball with my brain chemistry. I like smoking. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. It is part oral fixation, part habit, part image, part me. Like alcoholics who’ve been dry as cracked lips for 20 years, I am a smoker.

I’ve started to think more about quitting. I’ve even put in some serious effort, cutting of fire sticks for 3 weeks to a month on a few separate occasions. But I’m an irascible bitch during these times, a man with homicidal intentions, I approach the world with extreme prejudice. It’s not pretty.

One day I will quit. Perhaps it will be soon. Hopefully before I am 30. I hope my kids, should I ever have them, never pick up the habit, but there are worse things in this world. (Besides, by the time I have kids we will all probably be modified with a Community Behavior Chip that allows only thoughts that benefit the whole, that work as one, so what will it matter?) I do not want to get sick from this, nor do I want anyone I love to suffer because they stupidly smoked for too long and it bit them in the ass. But for now, in the short term, quick hit, satisfaction guaranteed, MTV sound bite, can’t see too far into the future world we live in, I’ll take my cigarette. If you really care that much, if you really are that altruistic, then don’t walk up to me, rather march to Washington and ask Bush to stop raping the Constitution and hating on everybody.

And after taking away my planes, my bars, my pubs, my restaurants, and my semi-covered outdoor patio space, the least you can do is leave me be. I am not public domain, and will puff away in the limited public space remaining. When I quit, I will quit for me, because I want to, because it is time.