I had the smoking dream again the other night. You ex-smokers know the one I mean: The dream in which you find yourself puffing again, so realistic that you wake up believing you’ve actually gone back on cigarettes.
Of all the things I’ve given up — booze, junk food, playing the ocarina — smoking is the only one that continues to haunt me like this. It just goes to show what powerful drugs are to be found in your average Camel. Cigarette, I mean. Not the sand moose.
That was my brand, Camels. And for the longest time, not the filtered ones, no siree. I smoked the little straight ones. I was nothing if not dedicated. I guess I thought it made me look manly and tough to smoke those little cancer bombs when, if anything, it makes me look even stupider than I already look, which is considerable.
Then, one day, for some very good reasons, I quit. I went out and bought myself a box of nicotine patches, went through the step-down drill and got off cigarettes. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
Except in dreams.
Actually, I shouldn’t even be calling them dreams. They’re nightmares. That’s how insidious and dangerous those cigarettes are.
I know for a fact that I could sit down and have a beer and be OK. I know I could eat a package of fries and, except for the intestinal discomfort, live to fight another day.
But cigarettes? One would doom me. One puff would doom me. I’d be back on them faster than you can say, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” Which, my Winston-smoking high school English teacher pointed out, was incorrect. Winstons, if they taste good, taste good as a cigarette should.
But enough about grammar. And no, my grammer did not smoke cigarettes, nor did my gramper (he preferred cigars or a pipe).
As I said, I had good reasons to quit, and one of them, I must admit, was vanity. I’d see people smoking and think, “My, how unattractive.” Eventually it dawned on me that it was the habit, not the people, I found so ugly — a habit that I shared.
Also, I got tired of standing around outside. That’s right, kids. I’m so old I can remember when you could smoke indoors. And when smoking was banned at my then-workplace, I said it was a good thing we had to go outside to smoke, or we’d never get any fresh air.
And I could see that cigarette prices were going to keep climbing. When I started smoking, sometime around fourth grade, they were 35 cents a pack. When I quit, they were
10 times that and more. And now, of course, you have to get a loan if you want to buy a carton.
No, I don’t miss it. But evidently smoking misses me, or it wouldn’t keep interrupting my sleep and waking me up, crazy with worry that I had somehow gotten back in the habit again.
It’s enough to make you drink, but I don’t do that. Or gorge on cupcakes and fast food, although I don’t do that either. But don’t worry. Nothing will make me pick up the ocarina again.
I have my standards.
Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.