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.
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.
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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.