An Essay on People Who Smoke

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

A few years back — long before I took to blogging, long before I knew there was an online forum for my thoughts and rambles — I wrote essays.  My intention, obviously, was to get them published.

Someplace.

Earlier today I was reviewing some Word files and came across this essay, which I named “Smoker Types.”  Not very creative, from a title standpoint; but people who read this piece (that’s what we called written works before they were known as “posts’) said it was funny.  You tell me.

From a historical perspective, I wrote this a few years before Illinois banned smoking in bars, restaurants and most public places.  From a monetary perspective, right now a pack of ciggies costs around $10, which today will get you just a little more than two gallons of gasoline.

* * *

Clouds of controversy are hanging over cigarette smoking these days.

The medical community unveils reports claiming cigarettes kill not only smokers, but those who breathe second-hand smoke.  Governments large and small debate whether to ban smoking from restaurants, bars and public buildings, or virtually anywhere between earth and the upper atmosphere.  Consumers fume over hefty tax increases that send the price of a pack to more than six bucks.  And, watchdog groups cry foul over Big Tobacco’s alleged marketing tactics aimed at hooking kids.

But who has taken a close look at smokers themselves?  You know, those dedicated to putting the tobacco, paper and who-knows-what-else product between the lips, lighting it and drawing in, only to immediately exhale.  Smokers have a right to stand up and be classified.  And, like many segments of modern society, smokers have evolved into distinct sub-species.  Here are a few.

TheMarathonRunner – The most athletic smoker type, the Marathon Runner doesn’t have time for a leisurely smoke.  He makes smoking a sporting activity, exercising the cardio-vascular system at the same time.  Watch as he reaches into pocket for the pack and lighter while walking double time on a city thoroughfare.  In swift, fluid motions, the Runner shakes out a butt, brings it to the lips, flicks the lighter, draws deep and continues on, unabated and without breaking stride.  Seasoned Runners can even accomplish the above while talking on a cell phone.

The Newbie – Every smoker needs time to find his or her place in the smoking world.  It takes lots of spent butts and thousands of dollars to develop style and technique.  You’ll spot Newbies everywhere, but most often outside suburban shopping malls, in fast food restaurants and in high school parking lots.  Look for big or multi-colored hair, body piercings and perhaps a neck or ankle tattoo.  All display neophyte smoking habits: frequent checking of the lit butt to see how many drags are left; persistent ash flicking; and the occasional hack from lungs yet tested by a two-pack-a-day habit.

The Philosopher – A denizen of cocktail lounges and hip, independent coffee houses, the Philosopher has nurtured smoking into an artistic feat.  Perched on a bar stool or before a double no-foam skim latte, this smoker favors black attire, and some even wear berets and fashionably draped  scarves.  Observe the Philosopher’s smoking ritual.  He deftly unwraps the cellophane from a new pack.  Then, he taps out a fresh cigarette and places it on the corner of the mouth.  Moments pass before the butt is lit.  The Philosopher finally takes a drag, then exhales with profound deliberation, keeping the cigarette poised between two fingers and pointed skyward.  Expressionless, he gazes in the distance, hoping to find the true meaning of life somewhere in the blue haze.

The Combat Veteran – From the trenches of World War I to the sands of Desert Storm, service men put in harm’s way were advised to always cup a lit cigarette.  Otherwise, some enemy sniper would put the glowing tip in his crosshairs.  Old habits die hard, and the cupped butt technique is employed by a distinct type of smoker, some who actually spent time in the military.  Frequently edgy and ill at ease (except when nerves are neutralized by nicotine ingestion), Combat Veterans often fall into the garden variety Chain Smoker category – lighting one cigarette after another, sometimes one from another.  Regardless, the conventional posture of holding a cigarette in the “v” formed by index and ring finger just doesn’t work for a Combat Vet.  He cups the smoking butt, yellowed fingers be damned.

The Social Smoker – Only one brand of cigarette will do for the Social Smoker: OPCs (Other People’s Cigarettes).  Whether it’s because he only gets the nicotine urge around other smokers or because he’s too damn cheap to buy a pack, this hospitable member of the ciggie crowd never lights up alone.  He needs the camaraderie of others – and their mooched cigarettes – to really enjoy a smoke.  The Social Smoker just wants the support of the smoking crowd, but he’d rather not support the tobacco companies in the process.  A freewheeling sort, the Social Smoker doesn’t have a particular brand.  Any cigarette will do, as long as it comes from someone else’s pack.

The Support Group – Virtually all smokers can find a Support Group.  Just light up outside any office building entrance (and not just in the clean air state of California), and the group will come to you.  The diversity of Support Group members is fascinating.  Behavioral scientists could have a field day observing behaviors.  See the Marathon Runner, lacking an expanse of sidewalk, pace back and forth like a caged big cat.  Watch Newbies hone smoking skills that can last a lifetime, or at least until emphysema is diagnosed.  The Philosopher, barely visible in the shadows, catches up on Goethe’s Faust.  Meanwhile, the Combat Veteran scans the perimeter for signs of an intruder, and the Social Smoker, smiling through the haze, asks if anyone can spare a butt.

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Six Months Later: Reached My Goal, Bring On More

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PR Dude

Monday of this week, April 18, was significant in one particular way for me.

April 18 was the day income taxes were due to be filed.  (Mine were filed in early March.)  It also was the start of Holy Week. (I grew up Catholic but don’t practice much.)  And, Passover started Monday at sundown.  (See previous statement.)

Give up?  Monday marked my sixth month in my great new position leading marketing and communications for a Chicago real estate association.

The big questions — “Is the job what you expected?” and “Are you enjoying the work, environment and colleagues?” — are certainly valid.  And, for the record, the answers are “yes” and “yes.”

From another perspective, I envision my success in this phase of my career as the culmination of a goal I set way back in the fall of 2009.  That’s when my previous job was eliminated and I had to throw myself into a serious search for a position that met my skills and salary requirements, and allowed me to grow as a professional and continue to work as a communicator.

Loyal readers know that the PRDude blog was driven by my desire to chronicle my search while commenting on public relations issues and topics.  I hope I’ve shared some insight that will help others in the same position.

Posts from the past have addressed:

And, lots of other stuff.

Today, six months after I realize my goal, I remain grateful for having an opportunity to work in a profession that’s stimulating, evolving and full of new challenges.   In the next six months, more challenges — both at work and through my volunteer duties promoting the Accreditation in Public Relations — will cross my desk.

I welcome them wholeheartedly.

Lunch With Mom at IHOP: A Great Day in America

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Sometimes we Americans forget just how fortunate it is to live in the U.S.A.  This is especially true when compared to just about anyplace else in the world.  Well, maybe it’s cool to live in Canada because they have less crime, some kind of “universal” healthcare and only 40 million people; but, the majority of Canadians live near the U.S. border anyway.

Read newspaper headlines — or, okay view them on your handheld — and it’s clear to me that life here is pretty good, even with still too high unemployment, governments (including the one in Washington) teetering on bankruptcy, a deflated housing market and gas prices steadily climbing upwards of $4 per gallon.  Rest assured, people living in other places — even those with cheap gas — are having a pretty rough time.

Regimes led by madmen (not you, Don Draper) in many parts of the world just make it tough or even impossible to enjoy some of the simple things in life on a Sunday afternoon.

I can speak from recent experience.  A few hours ago, my Mom and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch and conversation at her favorite casual lunch spot: That all-American icon with the global name, the International House of Pancakes.

IHOP's tagline: "Come Hungry, Leave Happy."

Her IHOP we frequent is located not far from the senior retirement community where she lives.  Its part of  a pretty good-sized mall that shares space with mostly national restaurants and other retailers you’ve heard about and probably patronized.  The restaurant is managed by two men of Indian or Pakistani heritage who seemingly are perpetually moving to get people seated and orders coming from the kitchen.  A young Hispanic woman is the hostess.  This time, a cheerful, smiling man named Manuel waited on our table; but during past visits we were served by a man with a European accent and a lady who more than likely moved here from the South.

The restaurant was comfortably crowded today — a hodgepodge of families, boisterous but orderly teenagers, elderly couples through with church and us: A middle-aged guy from Chicago visiting his 87-year-old mother who now lives in the suburbs.

I witnessed people from every age group and just about every ethnic background enjoying good, simple stuff on a day we can do stuff like this without worrying about roadside bombs, government thugs bashing in the door or “peaceful” riots.  For the record: My cheese and potato soup and half pot roast sandwich was satisfying and delicious, and a steal at $6.99.

Yes, there’s a lot a things that need to be fixed about America.  That the subject (or subjects) for another post.  Actually, many, many posts.  But true, effective public relations focuses on addressing the threat or the opportunity.  Perhaps things would get better if those of us who deliver communications and shape messages focused more on some of the good in this country.  A simplistic concept, I know. Maybe that’s what’s needed.

I’ll start with praising lunch this Sunday with my Mom at IHOP.