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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

If this isn't a cure for smoking I don't know what is

Let me just say that I know some of you smoke, and I will not condemn you for it.

You know the drill: you're grown; it's your body, yada, yada.

Besides, I'd be a hypocrite if I did condemn you, 'cause I have a humidor full of great cigars. And yes, I smoke 'em. Granted, I only smoke one every two months or so. But still, I smoke 'em.

That being said, I stumbled across a surreal scene earlier today when I stepped onto an elevator and caught a glimpse of an elderly man - maybe mid 70s - standing directly across from me and facing me who was mumbling to himself. He was about a foot shorter than me and his head was hung, so I couldn't see his mouth and couldn't hear what he was saying. And I couldn't quite pinpoint why his voice sounded so odd to me.

A second later, I happened to glance up and to my right and noticed a tall, younger man - maybe late 40s/early 50s - with a white Velcro strap around his neck. I thought it was strange but didn't stare.

So a moment later I hear Darth Vader. Not really Vader, but it was the old guy across from me. He had lifted his head and I saw that he had had a tracheotomy and had one of those electrolarynx voice boxes installed. He was smiling and gesturing and talking to the taller younger man, who turned his head and revealed that the white strap was attached to his own electrolarynx.

This was a slow elevator. So for about two minutes these two had a robotic conversation about the pros and cons of various electrolarynx devices, etc. They strained to understand each other. That's a sad fraternity to belong to, I thought. Not sad, as in pathetic. Just sad, as in what a bummer.

All I could think was "This would make a pretty good here's-what-a-lifetime-of-smokin'll-get-ya commercial."

It is possible that neither man was ever a smoker. Maybe they had accidents and their windpipes were crushed. Maybe.

Or maybe they smoked.

Either way the sight of the two of them trying their best to converse also made me think of those corny old anti-drug commercials, featuring the egg in the frying pan: This is your brain; this is your brain on drugs. has that commercial featuring the former smoking cowboy who sings through his electrolarynx next to a campfire in the middle of NYC.

These two guys trumped that.


  • That sucks.

    I used to smoke. (Disgusting, I know) However, watching my grandmother pass away at the too-young age of 63 of esophageal cancer cured that habit.

    There is something about seeing someone you love very much waste away to the size of a small child, endure chemo, puke their guts up for three years straight, only to end up panicking for breath for two days before they are mercifully allowed to die that cures one of the desire to stick a cigarette in your mouth.

    I wish I had a video of my grandmother's dying moments. I'm all for adults having the freedom to choose their life's course. I am not one of those "sue the pants off the tobacco industry" people. I just think that if anyone could have been there with me, holding my grandmother's hand as she labored for ever ragged breath and panicked through the few lucid moments, they would most definitely think twice before ligthing up.

    By Blogger QofD, at 4:32 PM  

  • Living in North Carolina, the tobacco growing capital of the world, I find it ironic to be bashing the use of the stuff, but bash I must. It is a tragic habit that takes way too many lives. I hope to live long enough to see the decline of the practice to the point where they no longer ask "do you have a smoking preference?" at the restaurants. (My usual response? "Yes, I prefer not to.")

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 7:55 PM  

  • I wonder if the two Darths were heading out for a smoke? I talk to people all day who have illnesses they have created for themselves. More than half the COPD patients I speak to still smoke, even though it's like slowly drowning with each breath they take. Recently one of our local senior citizens set her room on fire, killing herself and several other tenants of a high rise retirement home by smoking around her O2 tank, the one she was using for her COPD. No one ever listens to good advice, but just in case someone doesn't know--Tobacco is so desperately addictive some people would rather die an awful death than give it up.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 7:59 PM  

  • I smoke because I'm addicted. I've quit and relapsed many times. It's really just that simple.

    Not to sound unsympathetic towards anybody's personal experiences with smoking related illnesses, but scare tactics never really worked on me. I wish they did, then I could be rid of this habit and have a few more bucks in my pocket.

    There's just so many ways for me to die right now, I'm not even thinking about 63. Probably won't make enough money in my lifetime to support myself at that age anyway.

    The other thing is that not everyone who smokes gets sick. It's a genetic crapshoot as to how your body will react. My paternal great-grandfather was, by all accounts, an inveterate smoker, and he lived to a hundred and one. He was a mean bastard, too. Left his first wife and kids behind in Colombia when he was in his fifties and set up another franchise in Ecuador.

    The world is unjust, and there ain't no karma.

    Hell, I can't think of any blood relatives, going back three generations, that died of any kind of cancers. Accidents, traumatic deaths, a few suicides, sure, but no cancer. If I want to look for causes of premature death amongst near and distant relatives, and then make a list of things to avoid, it would look something like this:

    1. Avoid trench warfare
    2. Avoid mountain climbing
    3. Avoid drowning in the Pacfic
    4. Avoid hanging myself
    5. Avoid combining gambling debts, alcoholism, and a shotgun
    6. Avoid riding horses

    By Blogger NicFitKid, at 8:38 PM  

  • You make a good point, Nicfitkid. Too easy to die or catch something, I guess, to sweat any single possible manner of death.

    I lucked out...for the most part. I was one of those kids on whom scare tacticss worked.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:37 PM  

  • ah shit...if nicfitkid is right....I am soooo screwed...heart disease and cancer on both sides, alcoholism, diabetes... I might as well go out, have a drink and a cig while I'm at it!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:22 PM  

  • I heard recently that every cigarette you smoke reduces your life by 5 minutes. I told this to my BF. He continues to smoke at least a 1/2 pack per day, more when he's stressed. I can't stop him and it kills me!

    By Blogger Balou, at 11:01 PM  

  • Balou, tell him about my elevator adventure, watching Darth Vader have a conversation with one-armed Ned from South Park.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:16 PM  

  • It's not just the addiction, for some, or the fact that tobacco can really screw up people's lives.

    There's the hundreds of acres of good growing soil around the world that's given over to producing tobacco. Often in Third World countries where they really need the land to grow food for themselves - only the tobacco companies reckon they need their profits. And then go round advertising etc to get more smokers in those very countries.

    Yes, it's your body etc. It's also your family, & other peoples' air & environment. How many people have gotten lung problems, or even cancer, from 'secondary smoking'? Cos it wasn't just Roy Castle.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 4:59 AM  

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