Butt Out

If you see me out on the town and I have a cigarette between my lips, here's what I need you to do: Surreptitiously sneak up behind me -- go ahead, don't be shy, just do it -- and then back up ten, not eleven, not nine, but ten paces. Conjure up the image of a high-school bully or someone you truly loathe, then sprint toward me at full speed and execute a crippling, John Lynch-style tackle, slamming me to the ground and pushing my head into the pavement as you do so, scraping some of the skin off of my face and/or chipping my beautifully orthodontured teeth. Be aware that when you do this, I'm going to protest.

"Hey, what the fuck are you doing? I don't even know you!" I'll probably yell.

"You said to do this if I ever saw you smoking a cigarette," you will counter, because you are a predictable twat.


quitting smoking

"Listen, don't take everything I write in my column literally," I will say. "Besides, I only smoke one or two cigarettes when I'm drinking, because I'm trying to quit. Is that really so bad?"

Now, here's the important part, and this is crucial: Don't listen to me. Because I'll be drunk and craving a cigarette so badly that I'll be tempted to lick someone's voicebox on the off chance there's still some nicotine residue left in his esophagus hole. That is not the reasonable What's So Funny. That's the junkie What's So Funny. And a junkie only understands one thing: blunt force. And Spanish. So I guess junkies understand two things. Regardless, at this point I'm going to need you to pick up the lit cigarette that will be lying on the street. Take that lit cigarette and plunge it ever so forcefully into my left eyeball. I will scream, I will writhe in agony, I will probably shriek for the town constable, but eventually I'm going to pass out from the pain. And you know what's good about a passed-out What's So Funny? He's not smoking a cigarette.

As you might have guessed, I'm quitting smoking. This news will no doubt come as a shock to my parents, who had no idea that I smoked. So Mom, Dad: This is my way of telling you that for the past five years, I have been smoking cigarettes. Not a pack a day or anything like that; most of the time only when I'm drinking. But you are the last people I need to remind of my mixed Russian and Irish ancestry, for you birthed this combustible, handsome combination, so clearly I drink -- how you say -- frequently. And for too long now, that glorious rum-and-Coke-lined road to late-night-texting-stupid-decision-ville has been paved with Camel Lights.

How did it start, you ask? Like so many things start, Mom: with a girl.

Stop crying, and let me tell you about it. Dad, you stay out of this. Seriously, go to the office and work on my inheritance.

She was on my study-abroad trip to Spain, Mom; she was gorgeous; she wore low-cut jeans before anyone had ever seen such a thing -- jeans that she made herself! -- and boy howdy, did she smoke cigarettes. It wasn't uncommon for her to smoke three in a row. She relished the experience, knew she was fucking up her lungs and laughed at it because she was young and beautiful and living in Madrid. And she got me doing it, too. After meals, out on the town. It felt positively cosmopolitan. But then the trip ended and she disappeared, because she was, in fact, a whore. But the cigarettes, Mom, the cigarettes remained.

Through college, the first few years after, before a comedy show, when writing a hard story, I would enjoy the pleasure of a cigarette. I suppose I must have gotten cocky with it, though, because you started getting suspicious. This town is too small sometimes. Asking my sister if I was smoking, cornering one of my friends when you saw them, reminding me of the not one, but two grandparents I have lost from smoking. But what can I say? I was young and stupid. I'm almost 27 now, not so young anymore and getting more stupid by the minute -- I tried to calculate a 20 percent tip at a Mexican restaurant the other day, and it took me the better part of four minutes -- but I suppose if I'm going to be old and stupid, at least I can let my lungs be pink.

Am I going to miss smoking? Absolutely. Kids, not only does it give you a great buzz when you first start, but it also makes you look cool. Check that, super cool. But am I going to miss waking up in the morning and belching out a milky residue of cigarette butts, ashes, black curly hairs and, for some unknown reason, Lee Press On Nails? Absolutely not. Those days are behind me.

Now if I could just shake this meth habit, I'd be good to go.

Seriously, Mom, I'm going to need you to stop crying.


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