Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out With the Old

One last time to my favorite local breakfast nook for '08. The trip served a purpose; having recently jumped off the Motorola bridge and diving into the world of the BlackBerry, I needed to test the wireless capabilities on tethering to the laptop, and this is one place that I had had limited or non-existent access before. So, off I went with a goal in mind (besides the food), and I'm happy to report that it works just like I thought it would. Could surf the 'net using the phone as a modem, just like all the other wired geeks in our modern day world, and I sat and marveled at all the technology under my fingertips.

Wow, this IS fun, I thought. And on the heels of that, as I looked around the place, I thought, my, how things have changed.

Back in 'da day, you would walk in, grab a newspaper, order your breakfast, get that cup of coffee, and light that cigarette while you read your paper and waited for your food. That small restaurant was divided into "smoking" and "non-smoking" sections, and what a complete and total joke THAT was, but no one really cared all that much back then. If they did, they just didn't go there, and those folks were a very distinct minority. At that point, the "non-smoking" section was the smaller of the two, rather cute and quaint and usually not very populated.

That restaurant that I speak of is under new ownership and totally non-smoking now. The old owners had opened a new place down the road many years ago, a place that has two separate rooms (but still share the same air), and I had followed them and their food when they went. I sat at that counter today, reading the news on the computer, and yes, drinking that coffee and smoking that cigarette with all the other (paying big taxes in the state of Michigan) lepers in the smoking section, and the first story that hit me in the eye was this-

A smoking ban in one Colorado city led to a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalizations, according to a new study that is considered the best and longest-term research to show such a link.

The rate of hospitalized cases dropped 41 percent three years after the ban of workplace smoking in Pueblo, Colo., took effect. There was no such drop in two neighboring areas, and researchers believe it's a clear sign the ban was responsible.

The study suggests that secondhand smoke may be a terrible and under-recognized cause of heart attack deaths in this country, said one of its authors, Terry Pechacek of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I cringed with guilt. The addict that lives in my brain is resigned to the fact that this is the way we need to go. While I would still like to see exceptions for certain businesses (no, not the casinos, but tobacco shops and cigar bars), the evidence is overwhelming that this stuff kills. Probably going to kill me someday. That is my problem - but it shouldn't be the problem of the people sitting across the way, in the "non-smoking" section.

They are smoking, whether they like it or not, and I can't justify that. Maybe the restaurant can, but I struggle with it. I don't want to subject people to this poison.

I don't mind waiting. I don't mind going outside. It actually helps me cut down when I can't smoke. I do have a time limit before I will start climbing the walls from withdrawal though; airports and other public modes of transport (I'm thinking train stops) should let you go outside if you want. That is where I get a little peeved at "bans", when I'm trapped. But for the rest of the world, I have no problem with a ban. Our previous Legislature obviously did, and that is a shame.

We will see a ban here in Michigan eventually. I hope that it doesn't have to come in the form of a ballot proposal. That seems like an incredible waste of money when the legiscritters could just make it happen, like it has in the rest of the civilized nation.

And as every cell in my body screams out for "my best friend" in nicotine, I realize that eventually we are going to have to part.

I'm going to make a serious attempt to cut down this year to pay for the phone. I'm smart enough to know that I can't quit cold turkey; I've tried that before and it sent me into junkie sweats and nausea like you wouldn't believe. Can't take the drugs out of the fear of tipping into a full-blown depression; anything that blocks "pleasure centers" in my head have the potential to be very dangerous and might kill me quicker than the heart attack that is waiting to happen down the road. Plus, I don't really want to quit, and, having quit all the other "fun" stuff in my life, I know that wanting to is one of the biggest factors in the battle. I'm not there yet.

Things have changed, things are changing, and maybe someday I will want to change for good as well. I finished that cigarette as I bounced around the internet on the laptop, and played with the little phone that got me there. The food finally arrived.

And then a thought hit me. I smiled, and for old times sake, I put all the toys away - and grabbed a newspaper. Pretty soon that will be obsolete at the counter as well as that cigarette, and someday they both will be a memory of the last day of 2008.