Born on a Tuesday Beginning college on a Tuesday meant that the first day of my MWF classes started on Wednesday. Being the first day of classes, many let out early. Not extremely early, fifteen minutes or so. Well, my first class did indeed end early so I had a few minutes to enjoy a cigarette before class.
Now let me add, because this is important, it was no hotter than 25° F that day. It was, as they say, cold. Because of this I was wearing a thick Army field jacket, liner and all, with the collar turned up to stop the vicious wind that dropped the temperature into the teens. I also wore leather gloves and a black knit hat to keep me bundled up and warm. I stood there freezing, smoking a cigarette because I am addicted to that nasty habit.
It bears mentioning that I do not like the fact that I smoke. Being over four decades old I am more than aware of every health risk smoking imposes upon the body. I know about heart disease, lung cancer, bad breath, yellow fingers, and all the other horrible things the cancer sticks cause. Yet, as I said, I don’t like the fact that I smoke. Of all the bad habits I could possess that is the one I claim. I don’t do drugs, I rarely drink alcohol, I try to help others, I hold doors for old and young alike. I don’t do a lot of things that others do. I am generally a good person…who smokes. While I don’t like smoking I am happy I don’t do other, far worse things.
As I stood there enjoying a brief cigarette before class, minding my own business, I saw a young full-of-himself Millennial walk towards me, a stack of pamphlets in his hand.
It also bears reminding you that it was a balmy 25 degrees that day. This young I-can-change-the-world with his stack of pamphlets was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, hood pulled over his head, and shorts. Shorts. Nice athletic shorts that would be great for running around the basketball court, but not much in the way of providing warmth on a January in Pennsylvania.
So Mr. Shorts hands me one of the pamphlets and says, “Did you know smoking is bad for your health?”
I lifted my eyes towards his serious face, cast my vision down his body, towards his trembling legs because shorts are not made for winter, then back to his now not-as-confident face. I smiled a big smile. A smile born from a life of great times and amazing tragedies.
“Did you know telling older guys how to live their life can be worse for your health?”
I had a million other things I wanted to add. How you aren’t cool for wearing shorts when you are shivering. How I don’t think I have survived this long on this mudball planet without hearing that smoking was bad for me. A million other things I wanted to say to Mr. I’m-too-young-to-be-altruistic, but he had already walked swiftly away.
Sometimes I love being me.