Thursday, September 15, 2005

The One That Got Away

I woke up today feeling terrible, like someone had thrown me repeatedly against a wall before I went to bed. All the result of too many glasses of red wine last night at a local dive and far too many cigarettes. I swore to myself this morning, as I do every morning, that I really should quit smoking. It's an ugly habit. Uglier still, because of the things I do to hide it.

I work with people who are good. Much more upstanding specimens of humanity than I. They go to bed early, don't drink on weekdays, rarely swear, watch Jay Leno before drifting off in snow white sheets, wear cozy, tasteful sweaters. They exercise regularly and go to church. They are morning people. They're very nice people. And though I want to hate them for their goodness, I really can't. It's extremely frustrating.

These people I work with also despise smoking and are quite vocal about it. Sometimes I feel like there's a conspiracy of disgust afoot, as all the warning labels in the world do not discourage one from smoking as much as the collective disgust of your fellow man and woman. Smokers like me deserve it, I suppose. Anyway, it's not like I have any cogent arguments for smoking. "It makes you look cool" doesn't cut it anymore when you're in your mid-30s.

My exceedingly good coworkers and I work in a high rise building, in an office 50 stories off the ground. The smoking area is on the bottom floor, surrounded by tall glass windows where everyone in the lobby can see you as they walk by. It's almost like a display case of Those Who Will Soon Develop Lung Cancer And Die. A smokers' zoo. I've managed to find the one corner of the smoking area that's not entirely visible from the windows, though it's an uncomfortable spot between a plant and a sign. I'm the shy chimp in the glass cage, hoping that I'm only visible enough for a coworker to mistake me for someone else. I'm not sure if I'm fooling anyone.

It's getting out of the office that's the hard part. If you take your purse, I figure, you look like you're going to have a cigarette (too obvious), or you give the impression that you're leaving for the day. And in that hardworking environment, you don't want to look like you're on your way home at 11 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm. It's confusing for people. Now, any smoker knows you can't stash a cigarette in your pocket, or it'll break before you reach your destination. And my hands are too small to conceal a cigarette. So, I do what any sensible woman must: I tuck the cigarette in my cleavage.

To state it simply: I am small of frame and large of breast. I tend to slouch forward from all the weight. Hiding a cigarette in one's cleavage is tricky. You can't smash it between your breasts, because you look like a porn star as you head toward the elevators. You also have to maintain an awkwardly straight and (for me) difficult posture, to keep the cigarette from breaking in the space you've wedged it between your bra and your sternum. I've broken many cigarettes by slouching as I normally do. Which usually happens in the elevator, so I essentially have to travel 50 stories down, only to turn around and go right back up to my office, say hi to the receptionist, restash a fresh cigarette, back to the elevators, say hi to the receptionist, and down to the ground. It's very inconvenient and time-consuming. Precious hours of productive work have been wasted in such mishaps.

Having learned the posture lesson, I learned another lesson today. Crew neck t-shirts that are tucked in to your pants can create monstrous problems when the cigarette in your cleavage escapes. I didn't realize it had set itself free until I was almost to my plant-sign smoking spot in the zoo. To the amusement of all smokers present -- and I think I was visible to those looking through the windows -- I was up to my elbow fishing around through the neck of my shirt, trying to find that darned cigarette. Which had traveled to a spot in the middle of my back by this time. Which I didn't want to break, because this embarassing scrabbling around in my shirt fiasco would only have been worse if I had to start all over again at 50 stories above the ground.

I suppose I could've bummed a cigarette from someone, but I was too filled with shame at this point to talk to anyone. I really should quit smoking.


Blogger Stefanie said...

Doews M. Fresh mean "Minty Fresh"? Do I smell menthols?

I like to smoke at night occasionally. But I don't at work for the very reasons you give. I see those people outside the glass doors on the first floor looking intensely uncomfortable and I refuse.

Plus, I work in Beverly Hills, where smoking kills - because looks CAN.

3:32 AM  
Blogger mango said...

lol, cute story.

I used to work late nights in a club, where I took up smoking again after quitting, and used to get home at like 8am and be shattered but have to run in and shower and brush my teeth several times so my boyfriend couldn't smell the smoke, then go and put my clothes in the hamper and make sure I got to it before he did... tres stressful.

6:07 AM  
Anonymous tequilita said...

myself and a couple of other girls take "smoke breaks" all the time. we don't smoke, but we walk downstairs to talk and get away when the office gets too stuffy. that sucks that the people at your office is so uptight about it.

i realized i could never say anything about smokers when i decided to visit the tanning beds again this summer. what's the difference?

6:42 AM  
Blogger Henry Baum said...

Welcome, M. Fresh. Better smoking than beating up old people.

12:06 PM  
Blogger M. Fresh said...

Wow! Minty Fresh is, indeed, correct. Not for menthols, however, but for the inordinate number of minty things I put in my mouth to overwhelm that smoky smell...

12:34 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

Henry: I am not afraid to say -- with a fair amount of authority -- that beating up old people is better for your health than smoking. In fact, the combination of cardio and strength work involved in beating up old people is actually good for you.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Natalia said...

I'm not a smoker myself, but I feel like with everything else, quitting has to come when you are personally ready for it. I mean, people can DESPISE you for smoking, but until you're ready to make that leap, they might as well be invisible to the little smoking faeries that live inside you and call out for that next ciggie.

Good luck, love. Take care.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Chemical Billy said...

Welcome, Minty. I'm with Joseph K here, since quitting some ten years ago, I've found that beating up old people fills the void quite handily.

2:55 PM  

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