Sunday, June 12, 2016

Feeling lucky?

I love watching people smoke. This is because you don’t see smokers very often these days - they’re either dead I suppose or they’ve given up. 

Many have been scared off by the gruesome pictures on the packets - bloodshot Clockwork Orange eyeballs and missing digits, or else they’ve been bullied into quitting by mobs of righteous primary school children who have been shocked by the deliberately shocking TV advertisements and who now run to attack anyone they catch with a fag in public, shouting ‘Hey! Don’t you know that thing can KILL you? What are you - like, CRAZY?

Most of the smokers that are left are in hiding these days, exiled to the exteriors of buildings, loitering alone usually behind columns. They hold their cigarette as far away from them as possible like it’s not really theirs and look over their shoulder every time they sneak a drag. They blow the smoke skyward and bat their hands to wave it on its way…

It’s not like the old days, where people leisurely indulged their nicotine addiction, puffing out smoke rings. It’s not like the old days, where people smoked everywhere - in restaurants, in cars with the windows up, in nightclubs and bars so choked full of smoke that the pile of clothes beside your bed would reek like an ashtray in the morning. Those days evaporated like a packet of Lucky Strikes at a rave.

Most of the smokers these days are apologetic and secretive… there’s barely any hardcore ones left. So when I see one it’s like spotting an endangered black rhino in an African reserve. I have to stop and stare.


As luck would have it, I saw one today, walking down Victoria Road, an old dude - it was awesome. Watching him was like witnessing someone giving Death the finger. Every time he took a drag on that cigarette it was like he was saying ‘You know what Death? Fuck you.’ And I felt proud, like this old geezer was taking one for the team.

The Puny Human Team, shivering in the face of death, trying all manner of things to stave it off - giving up sugar, limiting carbs, only drinking wine on weekends, running on treadmills and climbing Stairmasters… why not paint the front door with goat's blood while we're at it?
Death must be laughing his ass off, knowing full well he could knock us off in the blink of an eye the next time we cross the road. 

I looked at this guy, this unassuming old bloke who was probably already wheezing with emphysema, maybe only taking in a quarter of a lung’s worth of oxygen. His skin was sallow, fingers stained with tobacco, the skin around his mouth wrinkled into a permanent pucker, he was probably riddled with tumours, and he was thin - all his money went on smokes, the rest spent on white bread and bacon loaded with nitrates… he probably jaywalked as well and took his dog for a walk without a leash. What a dude.

He’d be dead soon probably I thought, leaving the rest of us terrified humans behind, leaving us all quivering together into old age, clutching at walkers and call buttons and webster packs full of pills, until Death finally came.


Photo Credit: 'The Cigarette Smoking Man' by Ferdi De gier via flickr.

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