The Scum of the Earth

Um, hello, I would like to lodge a complaint. I mean, I know smokers don’t have any rights, we’re like the scum of the earth, but still, a little consideration would be amazing.

I mean, everyone knows the damage alcohol can do to your body, right? Not to mention the effects it can have on relationships and families, children and pets. Don’t even get me started on drunk driving statistics. Yet we make it so easy for drinkers.

There are lots of places to drink. We make them fun and convenient and you even get to drink INSIDE many of your favorite places. I can now have a drink at the movie theater, the casino, concerts, hotel rooms, most restaurants and countless bars. I don’t have to take my drink outside (in fact I am usually forbidden) if it is impacting someone else. Maybe I trip and spill my drink on you- oopsie! Maybe I knock your painting over at one of those “wine and paint” places springing up all over. Oh darn! Maybe I get a DUI. No problem, I can still drink wherever I want!

How many people have been killed by smoking drivers? Did you know in some states, depending on who is in your car, you can get a ticket for smoking in your own car!

Imagine if every time you wanted a drink you had to go outside, rain or shine or sleet or snow. And not just outside, but 25-50 feet from the nearest door. If you’re lucky while you’re there a teenager will walk by and fake cough like your choking them. It’s best to avoid eye contact with anyone, unless you enjoy disdain.

So like I said, smokers have no rights. When you’re in an all day meeting and you get a TEN minute break, no one is thinking about a smoker- but you can bet when dinner plans are made we’re going somewhere that serves alcohol.

Smoking is legal. Taxes from smoking pay for a shit load of things, especially in a state like mine where cigarettes are ten dollars a pack. Each year MN gives 22.5 million dollars to the Academy of Education at the U of M- all profits from the various cigarette and tobacco taxes. Another 3.9 million goes to the “medical education and research” account, which is appropriated to the Commissioner of Health. On top of this, each of the four major tobacco companies pays MN an annual fee to offset state incurred medical costs associated with smoking. Honestly, I feel like my state owes me a giant thank you for all the money I pay in taxes. Between J and I, the cost of smoking per month could rent a nice one bedroom apartment. Who’s paying that 26 million if everyone quits smoking?

(Who is paying the state incurred medical costs associated with drinking, I wonder?)

When I travel, I look for hotels with balconies. I can drink to oblivion in my hotel room and puke on the carpet, and they will just clean it up as part of the fee for the room. Not smoking, there will be a 100-250 dollar fee for smoking.

The office I’m at this week is a giant campus with three buildings of five stories or more. The smoking area is in the basement of one of the buildings, down a dark hall and out on a loading dock. It’s right next to the dumpster that serves the whole place, so, especially in the summer, it reeks exactly like a dumpster.

“At least we have somewhere to smoke,” we say to each other while breathing through our mouths.

We’re an agreeable bunch. We try to follow the rules and anyway we feel bad we’re such terrible people. We leave the smoking area and stop at the nearest restroom to wash our hands and get a drink of water, lest anyone be offended by our smell and complain. We don’t want to lose our smoking area.

I have about a five hour length of time until I start to want a cigarette. I usually don’t even think of it until then. After five hours I start to get a little crispy. You are allowed to be hangry, you are allowed and even encouraged to say “I am drinking tonight!” when you are having a bad day. It is not cool to say you want a cigarette, ever.

So today, after five AND A HALF hours of meetings, plus the drive time to the office (no smoking in rental cars!), I set out for the basement smoking area.

I thought it was weird that there was no one else out there, that hardly happens in a building that size. I enjoyed my cigarette, quickly, because it was only a short break, and headed back in. I swiped my security badge at the door to unlock it and let me in. Nothing happened. I swiped it again. Nothing.

That was when I noticed the sign on the outside of the door that said, “This is no longer a smoking area. This door must remain closed at all times.”

Right. Would have been nice if that was on the inside, before I got locked out. Since the smoking area is in the basement, down a forlorn hallway where no one goes unless they smoke, there was zero chance someone was going to happen by to let me in.

Oh, did I mention it was raining?

I thought about just waiting to see if anyone noticed I was missing and came looking for me, but that could take hours and I only had minutes.

So off I went, in my black patent leathers, in the pouring rain, to walk around to the front of the campus. I cut through the grass since it was raining, which turned out to be a mistake, the grass being so soggy that water puddled around my feet with every step. My hair is naturally curly and does not, I repeat NOT like rain. I’m pretty sure a drowned rat could have beat me in a beauty contest by the time I got to the front door.

“Does anyone know where the smoking area is?” I asked.

No one did.

“I’m not a smoker,” they all said, a little judgement creeping out even though they like me.

I set out with my ruined shoes and my frizzy hair to find my people. I went to the cafeteria, where the employees do not work for my company, and asked them.

“It’s a giant pain in the ass,” the cook told me, “you have to go out the front door, cross the street, walk to the parking ramp, take the stairs to the third floor and then head to the farthest corner from the stairs.”

All in a ten minute break. Right.

Meanwhile I got an invite for Happy Hour on Thursday.

But four hours later I grabbed my umbrella and set off. I found the ashtray, overflowing with garbage, and decided since I had to walk a mile I might as well have two while I was there.

“Um, maybe it’s a sign?” a coworker said, “they’re trying to tell you something.”

No, they’re not telling me anything. I already know I’m the scum of the earth and I have no rights. I mean, at least we still have a smoking area, right?

On second thought, nevermind about the complaint. I don’t want to ruin it for everyone.

(Kicks soapbox under desk)

Cheers!

Nic

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