Saturday, September 25, 2010


God, do I hate doing this.

When I smoked cigarettes, I was one of the coolest guys on the planet. That began the mid-semester of my seventh grade.

The night I quit, my thirtieth year, and many, many nights thereafter, I made and remade a sacred and secret vow to all the people who had not quit smoking that I, Edward J. Lowe. Jr., would ever and always recall and remember the joy and pleasure of smoking.

Therefore, I would not break the stones of persons who smoked. Never bother them. Never beleaguer them. I might even be their champion, if asked, because it was their habit, their custom, their life choice, if you will, to smoke, and they had an inalienable right, a legal right, a natural right to light up and blow smoke into whatever stiff face they saw fit.

Gradually, I began to see holes in that position.

The first was, “What about the people who claim the right to breathe air: clean, clear, crisp air?”

Hmmm. Well, they can go to a non-smoking bar or restaurant, for instance, if that is what we’re talking about. Because, that was what we were talking about in those days; having no-smoking sections in bars.

“Why can’t they breathe real, natural air anywhere?”

Because…c’mon, real, natural air isn’t anywhere. It doesn’t exist [already, my argument was floundering]. You don’t go to a bar to breathe in fresh air.

“I mean it.” said my brain. “Not only in your bars [my bars?]. What about a bus stop on a corner. What about Yankee Stadium. Outside church. On a fishing boat.”

All right, all right. Let’s take them individually, my mind said. A tavern-restaurant or bar.

“Fine. Do I impose on you at this tavern-restaurant what medicines I take to prevent the shakes?”


“No, I don’t. To stop my incessant belching? No. To make my seasickness go away. No. To save me from humiliation with my girlfriend? No—although, I’d like to try one out, if you have any to spare. But, no. So, why would you think that I would like to smell your rotten cigarette while I was eating my ice cream dessert? Or putting Wispride Cheese on my cracker.You know, you don’t smoke it in private; you let a dozen other people enjoy it, or suffer it, too. And you claim you have the right to do that? What about their rights?”

Well, to shorten the story, my position didn’t have a chance, and eventually, I abandoned it.

But I still thought it would have a chance. I still thought smokers had rights.

Years passed, and bans on smoking gradually got into everything, as well they should, because there was no way you could argue that an individual had a right to pollute other people’s air, except in the heat of battle or in times of National Emergency, and that was stretching it.

Mayor Bloomberg proposed banning smoking in one place or another, and a guy, a smoker, asked by a reporter what his reaction was, flipped his cigarette on the freaking lawn and said something about, “rights,” and you knew he was gone, and it was over, and he had flipped his flipping cigarette butt into ancient history as punctuation: “Not only do I think that all the ambient air is mine,” he appeared to say, “I think all the world is my ash tray, too.”

All right, I am convinced.

Now, I am hospitalized.

I am in a very private room (there was an argument in my previously destined double-room over whether the departing patient had urinated; so I was whisked into the next room, the last room in the hall, I guess to soothe my nerves; or, come to think of it, hers.).

The third night, the night I finally go to sleep, I am awakened choked, or choking.

I bolt upright…well, to the extent a man can, “bolt,” in my position, and I gasp for air. The room seems blackened with smoke, but cigarette smoke. I realize I haven’t smelled cigarette smoke in years.

Hesitantly, I press all the buttons in my purview and in anybody else’s purview, because I am now seeking to stand, I guess to get more air. My efforts to do that previously have been questionable, at best. So the small army of nurses and aides who rescue me deserve thanks.

Further investigation, with (bright, bright) light, shows no blackening, nor any cigarette smoke, nor smoke. And I still smell it, and fiercely, but I thank God I have said nothing, because, clearly, I have lost my mind. This is not only a smoke-free hospital, it’s a smoke-free campus.

Somebody right away said she notices cigarette smoke. Do you know what that does to your mind? One comment, and you are freed from the accusation that you are crazy.

So, I second that analysis. Not only that, I recollect a previous instance, not 30 hours before, of a previous offense. The nurses use my room to plot against this miscreant. I can hear them.

I have gone from a mind-your-own-business guy to a, hey-that’s-the-guy guy.

Truth is, I hate smokers. Hate ‘em.


  1. My best friend, Kim, (who you know of well) once smelled smoke in her bathroom while she was taking a shower. She doesnt smoke.. never has.. but.. her Mom did.. it took her life, eventually with the lung cancer. My Mom lost her life to smoke, too.. with emphysema.
    I still get a whiff of it every now and then.. and think to myself.. what better way to let me know she is still "here".. then to send me an aroma I would always associate with her.. no matter how much I deplore it today..
    You are not EVER alone.. Thinking of you this particular day.. praying that Gods will is in line with my own prayers. Regards & affection, g