“I spent my share of time working alongside guys and gals with a Marlboro or Camel hanging from their lips.”

Butt Heads

I’ve never voluntarily used tobacco products. Thankfully, I was born with a working brain. Involuntarily using tobacco products is another subject.

I suppose you might say I smoked cigarettes, without ever picking one up. My parents early on were chain smokers. I don’t know how many cartons of Pall Mall’s they consumed during my tenure at home, but I bet it’d be a railroad car full. My brother and I were forced to breathe their secondhand smoke, with it eventually taking a toll on my body. Bronchitis now comes easy.

I still remember a certain camping trip ruined because of this addiction on their part. In 1965, we drove to the mountains of Tres Ritos, New Mexico, from Lubbock, Texas, in a 1963 Buick station wagon. Dad and Mom puffed away the whole time we were in the vehicle, with it being hot outside and the air-conditioner going full speed ahead. Somewhere along the way, I developed a headache so bad that I thought I was going to die. My head was throbbing hard enough that I puked several times.

Dad deviated from his planned route and stopped at a small medical clinic in a town I no longer remember. They diagnosed me with infected sinuses, not saying of course, that all the smoke floating around in our car caused it. I suppose that would’ve been politically incorrect back then for them to claim such, since a good many doctors and nurses were hardcore smokers.

I don’t entirely blame parents for my medical shortcomings. For many years, smoking was allowed in the workplace, and I spent my share of time working alongside guys and gals with Marlboro’s or Camel’s hanging from their lips. Eventually, I had enough and circulated a petition asking for signatures of employees like me, wanting such activity snuffed out in the building. By the end of that day the list was full.

One morning, before leaving for work, I came out of the house finding my unlocked truck cab full of smoke. Someone had lit one and stuck it in the ashtray, and it sat there and smoldered. I knew who’d done the dastardly deed but could never prove such. It wasn’t long before smokers at our shop were ordered to “do their thing” outside. I was successful here, with plenty of backing from others, but enemies had been made along the way.

I didn’t stop there. On Friday and Saturday nights, in Anchorage, Alaska, my wife and I along with our two children attended the University of Alaska – Anchorage Seawolves hockey games at Sullivan Arena. We had season tickets. Directly behind our seats sat Dr. Kevin Park and his wife and child. Kevin was a friend from high school. Smoking was allowed in the stadium at this time in one section, that being where all the concessions and restrooms were. Kevin made mention of having to walk through a cloud to get to either, which gave me an idea.

I wrote a Letter to the Editor of our newspaper advocating that people attending hockey games, should they come down with any respiratory illnesses afterwards, send their medical bills to the Municipality of Anchorage for them to pay. At the next game, Dr. Park congratulated me, saying it was well written and positively taken within the local medical community.

Before that season was up, the Anchorage City Council voted to have smoking totally banned in the arena. I wasn’t the sole reason for them doing so, because after my letter was published, many more letters poured into the newspaper from doctors, nurses, and other hockey fans. That’s all water under the bridge now and I’m thankful for the outcome.

What spurred me to even write this piece is quite unusual, as least I think it is. I just came back from a Lake Havasu City convenience store where I often go to purchase peppermint candies. These are the round hard ones with stripes, covered with a clear cellophane wrapper. I’m addicted to these things.

When I first stopped at this gas station after its grand opening, it was fairly pristine outside. The parking lot was free of debris as was the surrounding landscape. This morning, taking time to look around, I spotted hundreds of cigarette butts lying on the ground. How did they get there? Why weren’t they properly disposed of in the numerous cigarette butt receptacles provided by this company. Go figure!

After opening one of my peppermint candies, I simply stuck the used wrapper in a trash receptacle also provided. Sometimes I put them in my pocket to be disposed of later. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the right thing to do here.

Thankfully, I was born with a working brain.

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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