Arts and Culture

Shut up, Centers for Disease Control: An open letter to the Denver International Airport

Dear Denver International Airport,

You stress me out. It's not you -- it's just that airports in general stress me out. You're too crowded, parking is a hassle, TSA makes me take off half my clothing and then feels me up inappropriately, and then when I finally get to the concourse, I have to pay five times as much for a bagel as I would anywhere else in the world. You stress me out, DIA.

And like many smokers, when I am stressed out, I smoke.

I'm one of a dying breed, DIA. I know that. Smoking isn't as cool as it once was -- in fact, it's downright uncool. I can't smoke in bars, can't smoke in restaurants, can't smoke in buildings, hell, my lease stipulates that I'm not even supposed to smoke in my own house, DIA, even though I do anyway. People look at me weird, now, when I smoke, like I'm fondling my genitals in front of them or something. DIA, they judge me.

This year, I realized that I've been smoking for over half of my entire life. I started back in the permissive early '90s, back in the days when they kept the cigarettes on the counter instead of behind it. We'd all chip in and have our oldest-looking friend -- who was just freakishly bearded for a 14-year-old -- go to the store where the old guy who looked at Hustler all day and charged a dollar more than anyone else per pack would sell to anyone who looked like they maybe might be 18. I thought those halcyon days would last forever, DIA.

I've smoked through births and deaths, several cross-country moves, hirings and firings from some 45 jobs by my rough estimate, a marriage and a divorce, three cases of bronchitis and one bout with pneumonia. I've learned to associate smoking with the most fundamental aspects of my life. Work. Food. Driving. Sex. Waking. Falling asleep. I do it twenty times a day, every day. Hell, I'm smoking right now.

Maybe they're right, DIA. Maybe smoking is gross. Shoot, I know it's gross. I know I smell like it all the time, that it yellows my teeth, that it's the reason my gums bleed sometimes. I'm not as young as I once was, DIA, and I can feel it every time I haul myself up a flight of stairs. It aggravates my asthma. I get sick more often.

But you know what else, DIA? I was born in fucking America, and if I want to destroy myself, that is my inalienable right. If I want to drive without my seatbelt on, I'm going to do it. If I want to stand on the railroad tracks until the oncoming train is just inches away from me, then you better bring on the train, my friend. If I want to eat twenty cheeseburgers a day until my heart explodes (I'm looking at you, American Heart Association), then by God, you show me the law where it says I can't.

And if I want to smoke cigarettes, DIA, then I am going to keep smoking cigarettes. I'll do it no matter how hard they make it, DIA, because I'm an American, and because I can.

But you, DIA, you make it a little easier on me. You're one of my last holdouts. One last, special place where I know that me and my kind are welcome. Every time I fly, DIA, I go though security and head straight to the top floor of Concourse B, where I walk into that thick cloud of smoke and breath in the pungent odor of sweet relief. I don't even complain about the shitty, overpriced coffee you make everyone buy just to sit there, DIA, because I'm lighting up, and it feels good.

You're one of just three major airports in the country that allow smoking inside anymore -- only Dallas and Atlanta are left besides you -- and now the Centers for Disease Control is trying to change even that, issuing some cockamamie report with a recommendation that you ban smoking outright on your premises and a lot of jargon about "second-hand smoke" and "cancer."

Cancer, schmancer.

Don't listen to them, DIA. They're not like you and me. They're sad little people who spend their lives trying to control those of others so they can feel a little less pathetic and oppressed in their own. They're milquetoast hall-monitors and impotent sissies.

Not like us, DIA. We're rugged individualists. We're men.

I love you, baby. I need you. Don't ever change.


A smoker

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte