The Smoker

On my way back from lunch the other day, I passed a man leaning back, with one foot resting on the wall behind him. He was happily puffing away on his cigarette, and it reminded me of way back when I was a kid.

When I was a kid, we traveled a lot. There were road-trips and flights to and from the grandparents’s house, and then once we got there, there was more driving, as we went to visit various family members within a few hours’ of their home. Road trips became synonymous with the same travel games, the same travel food, and the same travel music.

It was always the same. Perhaps that would be boring to some—certainly for the kids of the iPod generation—but for me, it was comforting. I knew it would take a long time, I’d better pee when I could, and I’d be getting my fill of Little Debbie snack cakes and star crunch cookies. (And hiding the apples my mother insisted I take so it looked like I ate those, too.)

One of the albums we listened to as often as I could convince my folks to put it on was the Smothers Brothers’ Golden Hits Vol. 2. (It took me YEARS to figure out they never produced a Vol. 1… I blame Tommy.) I insisted on listening to it so many times over the years, that I pretty much had the whole album memorized. Go ahead: ask me what you do after you boil hotcakes in cabbage juice. (You EAT it!) Ask me what their father’s name was. (Gort! … sometimes, depending on which brother you ask.) Ask me what the small sliver bell over the synagogue rang every night. (Ding-Dinga!)

You know why those two are so funny? Many comedians base their shtick on race, class, and/or gender: tensions that people can generally relate to in some way, to be sure. These guys chose a tension that is even more universal and timeless— if that’s even possible: sibling rivalry. Lines such as “OH, YEAH?” are sprinkled between the teases, ribs, and over-the-top sparring that only siblings can offer. And through it all, there is warmth, wit, and political activism… Hmm. I’m starting to understand my own sensibilities a little more, now that I think about it.

Anyway, right smack-dab in the middle of Vol. 2 ($5 on Amazon–seriously, get it), they announce a break for an intermission:

Dick: And now I think it’s time in the show we like to mention that we generally run the shows in two separate parts.
Tommy: We like to do the show in two parts. We like to have a first part… and then there’s a second part.
We like to run it in that order.
Separating the two parts of the show will be an intermission type thing, which would run around 16 minutes. So we may all get up… and we may move around and stretch… and if you smoke you may go out and smoke. *holds his breath*
Sixteen fun-packed minutes of smoke!

D: They don’t have to smoke.
T: You don’t HAVE to smoke. If you don’t wanna smoke, you certainly don’t have to go out and smoke. During that 16 minutes you don’t have to smoke if you don’t want to smoke…
Go out and drink!

D: They don’t have to drink either.
T: You don’t HAVE to drink, though, if you don’t want to drink.
D: That’s right!
T: You don’t have to smoke either. Or drink…
Hardly enough time for anything else.

So there’s this guy leaning on the wall, smoking like a chimney, which has got to be close to one of my least favorite smells of all time. Seriously, ew. But he looked so happy, I couldn’t just be rude. Have you seen those non-smokers? The ones who “cough” every time they pass a smoker? Or the ones who start shouting about cancer or whatever? Look, I don’t LIKE smoking, but I just find that so uncomfortable. If a smoker wants to smoke, let him… as long as it’s away from me.

So yeah, I didn’t want to do that. He looked so happy. Besides, all I could think was, “Sixteen fun-packed minutes of smoke!” I held my breath with a smile on my face, and kept going. After all, coming back from lunch, there’s hardly enough time for anything else.


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