My office complex borders another large business in town that recently instated a rule that no one could smoke on their property. The shrubs between that office and my complex has become a weird smoker gateway. The smokers from that business creep through the broken sections of vegetation and hang out to smoke on our side of the trees. It’s quite entertaining to see it happen because you wonder what someone who doesn’t know the new ruling at the business thinks. Why do these people just emerge from the trees?
As a former smoker, I often find myself jealous of those people. More often that I sometimes care to admit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I’m not the one killing myself 20 times a day. And throwing my paycheck to the tobacco industry. But — when I smoked, I used a cigarette as a reward of sorts. I would say to myself, “Finish this one task and then you can go smoke.” So, when I was smoking, it was indicative that something had been accomplished. In the years since I’ve quit, I’ve often wished I had found a suitable replacement. Not only does it give you some reward, but it sometimes kept me focused on a tedious task for longer chunks of time. I tried using donuts, but my ass requested I stop that habit.
I’m also jealous of the social networking done from the tree people. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never been a smoker, but as a smoker, you find yourself forming bonds with the other people in your carcinogenic group. When I was in Austin at SxSW, I would see the smokers gathered on the balcony and I actually felt sad that I couldn’t be in those groups. It’s like instant camaraderie. Some of my best friendships were formed over shared lighters and bummed smokes. At my college, a smoker would actually announce their upcoming smoke break so everyone could chime in and say something like, “Give me five minutes and I’ll join you.” We traveled out to the breezeway in packs, leaving the non-smokers behind. We even said if we ever formed a business together, we’d have to incorporate the word “Breezeway” into the name because we did our best brainstorming there.
Don’t get me wrong – I never regret quitting. It was – without a doubt – the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Seriously. It may be one of the things in my life I’m the most proud of. I did it cold turkey. On Christmas Day several years ago. It didn’t become easy for months, and I cried more during that period than during any other chunk of time in my life. It was hard. I would never go back. But – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. And seeing the smokers creep towards my office several times a day, reminds me of that.
But man – I’m so glad I don’t smell like a dirty ashtray anymore. As is the rest of my family. And it’s nice to spend that money on more tangible things. Like beer.