Years ago I earmarked smoking as one of my main topics in editorials and opinion pieces. Having been subjected to secondhand smoke most of my life, I was against having to involuntarily breathe toxic tobacco carcinogens at the workplace and in public places. I incurred a great deal of hate and dissension over my opinion.
On one occasion, I wrote an editorial advocating that fans attending University of Alaska -Anchorage Seawolves Hockey games at the Sullivan Arena, send their medical bills to the Municipality of Anchorage should they incur bronchitis or asthma attacks. A section of Sullivan Arena was considered the smoking-section while another was non-smoking. Between periods, tobacco smoke knew no boundaries. A blue cloud filled the whole building.
A friend of mine, the late Dr. Kevin Park, sat behind my family at these events with his wife and small child. One evening during a game, Kevin told me that the editorial I wrote was making city council members uncomfortable. Evidently there was some legality to what I said. He heard through hospital personnel that smoking was soon to be disallowed at the Sullivan. Kevin gave me a high five. I told him it was probably best that smokers in the building didn’t know my identity. He laughed.
During this time of Covid-19, and the refusal of certain folks to wear masks in public, I’m using freedom of smoking as a way to get my message across. I believe that some non-mask wearers are nothing more than irresponsible and selfish people. A fictional story best sums up these thoughts.
REBELS WITH A CURSE
Ben Rodent Jr., appreciated his freedom. He did what he wanted to regardless of mouse-made-rules.
“It’s my freedom baby!”
That’s what Ben told those friends and strangers following health regulations and guidelines.
When Covid-19 hit Chicago’s mice and rat community, all resident rodents were instructed to wear masks or bandannas while in public. Ben thumbed his furry nose at that ruling. Being a rebel, he went about his daily life as if nothing had changed.
One afternoon before the floors were to be swept, Ben crawled through a circular hole into a small diner. He hoped to score some crumbs from sloppy lunch customers. Off in a dusty corner sat a fat rat without facial covering. Ben quickly ran over to the stranger hoping to find an extra morsel of bread or cheese.
“I see you you’re a freedom creature like me!”
The obese vermin nodded his head in agreement.
“What’s your name?”, Ben asked.
“Nickotine Rat….. friends call me Dirty.”
Ben and Nick chatted for several minutes. Much of their conversation centered around Coronavirus being a hoax.
“It’s a ruse!”, Ben told Nick. “Wearing a constraining mask isn’t going to stop the spread.”
Nick listened intently before pulling out a partially-smoked cigarette butt and lighting it.
“What are you doing?” Ben barked. “Don’t you know that causes cancer in mice?”
“Chill dude!”, Nick replied, blowing a cloud Ben’s direction. “Cancer caused by cigarette smoke is another hoax.”
Nick went on to explain that it was his mouse given right to smoke wherever he darn well pleased; using much harsher language. He finished his spiel by repeating Ben’s favorite line,
“It’s my freedom baby!”
The two strangers parted company. Ben wanted nothing to do with Nick’s noxious tobacco smoke and Nick was repulsed by Ben’s fear of such.
A few months after their get-together, Ben read in the Chicago Vermin Gazette that Nickotine Rat died of emphysema.
Tossing the paper aside Ben muttered to himself,
It wasn’t long afterwards that Ben began moving at a slower pace through Chicago’s dark alleyways. He wasn’t sick. The mouse spent each waking day with a heavy heart.
Unbeknownst to him, he had been an asymptomatic carrier of Coronavirus. During visits to family and friends, Ben inflicted all of them with the cursed crud. A good number died including his father and best friend. Ben cringed at the thought that he was responsible for their deaths.
Deep inside, he knew that his selfish-freedom to be void of a simple-mask came with a steep price. Not that it mattered at this point as the damage had already been done!