“What???”, you say! “You smoked???”
I know that it’s hard to believe, right? I mean, hard for anybody who knows me. But, yes, it’s true.
And here is my story in its entirety. Nothing left to the imagination. Every sordid detail of my previous life as a smoker. Puff by puff.
How I started smoking…
In 1969, I joined the United States Navy. (Interestingly, I was actually drafted after I joined, drafted again when I was in boot camp and drafted a third time while I was in Vietnam. But that is another story for another time…)
In November and December (and January and February the next year – yes 13 weeks of boot camp because I got there the day after the cutoff for Christmas leave, and they didn’t count three weeks as “time served”) while in boot camp, The early mornings – 0500 to be exact – were a bit chilly. Even in San Diego.
Many (most) of my shipmates were smokers. I wasn’t. But I did have cold hands and I took note of the fact that many of my friends kept their hands cupped around their cigarettes.
Having observed what they were doing I enquired as to the reason for this practice and was informed that it was done in an effort to add a little heat to their freezing phalanges.
This, in turn, caused me to consider the temperature of my own manual extremities, and I decided to give it a shot.
I requested a cigarette and a light from one of my comrades, and was, happily, granted one of each.
How I got hooked…
I lit up. I puffed. I encircled my hands around the lit end of the thin cylinder of finely cut tobacco rolled in paper (stogie). I immediately noticed the pleasant increase in warmth which now enveloped the inside of, not only my fingers but the palms of my hands as well.
As small improvement as this may seem to those of you who have never been in the situation, this was a vast improvement in comfort for a guy who was still in the middle of the “tear down the boy” stage which precedes the “build a new man” stage of military basic training. In short, it was GRAWESOME.
For the following two days, I repeated the same tactic of bumming a cigarette and a light from a willing contributor to my new bad habit. It was most enjoyable. (Interestingly, I didn’t actually inhale, so I never had the cough-cough-hack-hack symptoms associated with new, first time smokers.)
How I quit…
On the third day, after my new found “usual” warm up in the early morning hours, we had an inspection. As usual, I was impeccably prepared and standing at attention as the company commander approached from my right (his left). He finally arrived directly in front of me, face to face. He looked me in the eyes. He investigated my face for any trace of unwanted facial hairs. He checked my mouth for any indication that I might be enjoying the moment (wayward smile).
And then he lowered his gaze a bit, At which point his face suddenly snapped back up even with, and moved to within a micron of my own, and began screaming at never before naturally achieved decibel levels:
“SEAMAN RECRUIT KRAMER-KAMENER-KEMANAR – WHATEVER THE _ _ _ _ YOUR NAME IS!!! DID YOUR MOTHER EVER TEACH YOU HOW TO PROPERLY DRESS???
“WELL DID SHE TEACH YOU HOW TO _ _ _ _ _ _ _ FASTEN A _ _ _ _ _ _ _ BUTTON???”
“WELL WERE YOU PAYING ATTENTION, OR WAS YOUR MIND SOMEWHERE OF IN THE _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ WILD BLUE _ _ _ _ _ _ _ YONDER DURING THAT _ _ _ _ _ _ _ LESSON???”
“I must have been thinking of something else, Sir.”
“WELL, YOU MUST HAVE BEEN! AND DO YOU KNOW HOW I KNOW THAT YOU MUST HAVE BEEN _ _ _ _ _ _ _ THINKING OF SOME _ _ _ _ _ _ _ THING _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ELSE, SEAMAN RECRUIT KRAPER-KRUMPRE-KMREAMENAR?”
“Uh… Did you ask my mother, Sir?”
After breaking the previous sound-volume record, his decibel level, somehow, got even higher.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO_ _ _ _ _ _ _ OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, YOU STUPID _ _ _ _ _ _ _ SMART_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ SON _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _!!! I DID NOT ASK YOUR MOTHER! I LOOKED AT YOUR _ _ _ _ _ _ _ SHIRT POCKET!!!”
I just stared into his eyes. I believe that if eyes could foam, his would have been frothing heavily at this point.
“DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THIS INFRINGEMENT SHOULD GO UNPUNISHED, SEAMAN RECRUIT KRAMPMIRE?”
“WELL SEAMAN RECRUIT KEARMNRE, WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH YOU TO ENSURE THAT YOU _ _ _ _ _ _ _ CAN REMEMBER TO FASTEN ALL OF YOUR _ _ _ _ _ _ _ BUTTONS IN THE _ _ _ _ _ _ _ FUTURE??? DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS?”
“You could extinguish my smoking lamp, Sir.”
For the longest fifteen seconds of my life, he simply stared into my eyes. He then turned to the man standing next to him, taking notes, and said, “Yoeman, make it so. This man’s smoking lamp is out.”
And that is how I quit smoking. And never started again…
I mean really, would you?