Apologia for a Vice, part two

I was a smoker for many years. Emotions about this are mixed. If I knew with certainty that tobacco would never negatively impact my life, I would run to the nearest shop to buy some. Alas, that isn’t the world we live in. I elect not to smoke in the hopes of improving my quality of life now and in the future. I know I am making the right choice by doing this.

THAT BEING SAID, I do miss smoking. And I am now largely a non-smoker. I have given myself a specific set of circumstances in which I can permit myself the vice.

  1. I have access to my favorite rolling tobacco.
  2. I am on vacation.
  3. I am currently in a city that is not the city I currently reside in.

This is done as an anti-habit forming measure, and I think it works well. It doesn’t allow me to smoke all that often, while allowing me to do it when I need to.

When I get off of an airplane, I need a cigarette. So at Marco Polo airport I was already having pre-flight jitters. It was going to be a short flight, and frankly that was going to make things worse; the type of airplanes used for short journeys tend to suffer from more turbulence, the part of air travel I hate most. So I bought a pouch of my absolute favorite tobacco, Golden Virginia, and headed to the smoking section.

It calmed me enough to board the flight.

The flight was god damned hellish. At Athens airport while everyone else was walking to baggage claim, I stopped off at the smoking room for another. It calmed me nerves enough to get me to my hostel. And I though that was going to be enough. I figured I would finish the day off, and when I left Athens the next day for my new job, I wouldn’t meet the criterion any longer and would stop smoking. But the forces of the universe had other plans at work. As I checked in they gave me a coupon for one free shot at the hostel’s bar.

Beware if this ever happens to you. Its nothing more than a poor excuse to get you drinking, and god damn does it work.

I asked the bartender for a shot recommendation (which he gave), and fearing that I wasn’t all that satisfied with my choice, he gave me a second. After these, I of course needed a cigarette. So I rolled one and as I did someone asked me if they could roll themselves one as well.

And here is the crux of the argument – smoking just leads to fun nights out. It’s hard to measure how hard of a rule this is, but it seems to me that every time I start the night with a cigarette I manage to run out a great night. That cigarette led to a conversation with another smoker about a city I used to live and which he would be visiting shortly. He offered me a drink for the advice, and a cigarette later I found myself talking with some Italians at the hostel. The one after that got me into a game of beer pong, and the drinks at that point just kept flowing and the cigarettes kept chasing.

By the end of the night I was hugging all these people I just met like we were life long friends, and if that isn’t a sign of things going well I don’t know what is. The young British man who kicked the night off was trying to talk me into going to a rave, but I desperately wanted some sleep. I consigned my pouch of tobacco to him and told him to have a great night with the pretty girl who had talked him into the rave in the first place.

That pouch of tobacco cost me roughly 8€, and it was money well spent for one night. I have not smoked since that night, and I likely won’t for some time. At my age, I can’t really have nights like that with too high a frequency. But I am glad that, on some occasions, I can.

About a decade ago, when I was a full on pack a day smoker, I had a colleague who smoked once a year. On no occasion that I could discern excepting the fact that she was going out for a night on the town, she would buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke as many as she wanted in that one night. After that, she went back to being a non-smoker. I admired that massively in her. And I think I am getting there. At some point between the third and fourth game of beer pong, I didn’t really want to smoke anymore anyway. I was already looking forward to going back to being a non-smoker.

I know why I do this. The idea of anything being terminal. I don’t particularly like cauliflower, but if you but one down in front of me and said ‘this is the last cauliflower you will ever eat’, I would be bothered by it. When I was first quitting, I picked up on that. I didn’t like the idea that terminal nature to the thing. I wanted, you know, to have one occasionally.

As the American Philosopher Tom Waits once said, “You know, the beauty of quitting, is now that I’ve quit, I can have one.”

…wish me luck.

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