I have asthma. I am a singer. I like aerobic workouts (is what I say to myself, desperately seeking motivation to get to the gym instead of dying alone on my couch, my trachea crushed under the weight of my chins). I obviously don’t smoke.
I don’t know if kids think it’s cool to smoke nowadays. I rarely see teenagers smoking, but I also know that most adults really don’t want them to smoke, giving cigarettes an irresistible allure. I smoked a few cigarettes in my college days, but never with any conviction. The most notable time I ever smoked is when I was twelve or thirteen. Someone had given Pandito some grody cigars. Pandito was probably nine or ten at the very oldest, and had no business smoking or even touching cigars, so I took them, wise in my pre-adolescence, and the Silly Squirrel and I decided to see what the fuss was about. The coughing, sputtering, and near gagging that occurred as a result were not pretty. The incident sent both of us running for our inhalers and gum. It wasn’t until years later that I learned, not from experience, you aren’t supposed to inhale cigars.
I bring this up not to convince you that all teenagers are hooligans who will go bad at the drop of a hat (you know that), but because this weekend, I smoked. It was for a role in a television pilot set in the eighties. Think of it as Mad Men with bigger hair. In the eighties, people smoked. And they didn’t smoke these fancy cigarettes with a million filters; the filters were made of tar and they liked it that way. These smokes tasted the way that you always dreamed making a slushy out of cigarette butts and despair would taste.
The first one was disgusting. By the fifth or sixth cigarette, they were going down pretty smoothly. The key to chain smoking for non-smokers* is to keep smoking so that your taste buds and lungs are so coated that they are basically immune. I also found that preemptive inhaler use was particularly helpful, so thank you to my allergist for that suggestion.
Imbibing that much nicotine and stimulating Ventolin, and then hopping on an hour long train ride back to the city was not the greatest sequence of events in my life. By the time the Metro North pulled into Grand Central, I was so agitated I was twitching. By the time I got home, I was ready to punch myself in the neck. (I didn’t.) Even though I smoked cigarettes for nearly an hour of my life, I managed to not become addicted. But I would be happy to nurture the habit if it means getting the pilot picked up.
*Editor’s Note: I pray I didn’t look ridiculous dealing with those cigarettes. People look so cool when they casually flick the ash and stuff off the ends. I feel confident saying I did not look cool.