I remember when I started smoking cigarettes. It was 1977 and I was in the 4th grade. I started this bad habit so early on in life because my older sister –who my parents always had me tag along with– turned me on to everything fun. Back then, we could walk through the neighborhood, up to the hospital and put our parent’s quarters into the vending machine on the second floor and simply pull the handle. It was that easy.
We started out with Bel-Air because we liked that package the most, but as we aged and got more cool we switched Marlboro Lights and later Marlboro Reds and Camels. I loved to smoke and had a pack a day habit by the time I was 16. At this time, I tried my first bong hit and life became so rosy. For those who believe in gateway drugs, don’t even go there, I was destined to be a smoker due to the fact that my mother never breastfed me and there was always something artificial shoved in my mouth. Also, believe it or not, I was a good student and quite athletic as well, playing center and wing for the high school soccer and field hockey teams.
When I moved to healthy/hippy-afflicted Hawaii and got married at 25 to a full-on pothead, pack-a-day smoker, I became more healthy in my smoking habit. I started smoking American Spirits which at least were not full of the filthy chemicals found in the Phillip Morris brand of smokes.
Yes, life was good, until I got sick of being in a house with three pack-a-day smokers (three because my stoner husband never moved out of his mom’s house). Why would I ever want to light up if I was breathing everyone else’s smoke on a constant basis? And how the hell was I going to be able to quit when I had been trying off and on for years to kick the habit.
Well, for those of you who have tried and failed and are searching for the way, here was my solution – I started smoking pot; lots of pot. Every time I wanted a cigarette, I would roll a joint. And if that made me want to smoke a cigarette as Mary Jane usually did, I’d roll another joint. Life became really good and after some time I was even able to cut down on the pot smoking – maybe once a week to once…or twice…a day.
I had been cigarette-free for 10 years and finally decided to become pot-free as well because I thought it was making me too tired. I was going good for a couple of weeks, until one fateful night when I went out for drinks with a girlfriend and instead of going to another bar as I would have liked, she made me walk across the parking lot to our local Wal-Mart, so she could walk off her buzz and drive home.
Well, I grudgingly made my way with her to the land of fluorescent lighting and cheap Chinese goods that I would normally boycott. My buzz was pretty good though, and before long I had gotten into the spirit and chosen some cute panties and a cowgirl beach hat. When we got to the jeans on sale for $9, there was no resisting. I dropped all my selections and my purse right there in the middle of the store and slipped my legs (high heels first) into the pants and pulled them up under my dress and checked them in the mirror. Looking good! Then we picked up all our stuff and checked the swimsuits… There was a cute white bikini with peacock adornments – but not for me. “Hey girlfriend, how about this top, it would look great on you! Try it on.” Random silly girl fun like that, but finally we had finished that place off. As we headed to the checkout line, I went to get my wallet out and holy cripes, my purse was not in the mess of things I was holding.
Quickly we went running back to the ladies department and scanned the floors and racks, but no luck. Using my girlfriend’s cell, we called and called and called my phone. The ringer went from the four rings-to-message to straight-to-message; someone had turned it off! We notified the store personal and they broadcast a message for people to keep a lookout for a purse. Wow, that was a lot of help. I let my girlfriend run around to check everywhere we had been, while I sat at the front door and watched the people leave, looking for any strange bulges in their attire.
Now, I don’t know what Wal-Mart is like in your town, but in my town at 10:30 at night the only people in there are surely the swarthiest dregs of society (myself excluded?). Parents on ice with their screaming kids that just want to sleep, drunks and thieves looking to shoplift or prey upon the others who look (drunk enough to be) victim-worthy. When I sat at the door watching everyone check out and leave, I was seriously shocked to see the number of people with strange bumps coming out from their layers of fat under their shirts and on their backsides – was that my purse hiding in there? There was no way I could pick one of them to be the culprit. Finally, the police had come and done nothing, and everyone had left the store and they made me leave the store too.
So, there we were at midnight in the Wal-Mart parking lot where those without enough money to go out have decided is the perfect party zone. We had called a tow truck and were waiting for them to come take me and my car home since my keys had been in my purse and I didn’t want my car stolen. It could have been anyone among the scurvy cast of characters still hanging out, waiting for everyone to leave so they could find my car. Hoping the thief took my money and tossed the purse, my girlfriend was now driving up and down the lot looking to see if she could find it while I was standing on the curb, feeling so frustrated by the whole shebang I could have cried.
That’s when I noticed a group of girls hanging out in the lot smoking cigarettes. I couldn’t keep myself from bothering them. Before I knew it, I had bummed a menthol off one. The first hit gave me such a rush that I exclaimed to the girl “Damn, you smoke these things?!” and then sucked down the entire stick without turning back…wishing I had just begun when I dropped the butt to the ground. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it.
The next day I couldn’t believe what I had done. How could I give up all those years of saying “no” so easily? If I smoked a Camel again, would I be sucked back into the habit? Well, I put that question to the test when a couple of nights later another girlfriend lit up a Camel and I took a pull. Yuck! Thank god! Then the next week, my farrier happened to take a smoke break and it was menthol. Uh oh, yum!
Now, I haven’t bought a pack yet… but I have smoked two more cigarettes since, one a month… and I’m calling myself a non-smoker as I think this title still pertains to me. I’m really not looking to have the habit again, especially since they aren’t just a few quarters anymore. But it is obvious that I have a great desire to inhale something smoke-like. I’m sure I’m not the only person that feels this way, but I just don’t understand…why can’t there be a cigarette that is actually good for you, smells nice and doesn’t make you want to nap?! I suppose until that happens, I’m left cautiously teetering between the worlds of smoker and non-smoker.