Playing with powerful forces of darkness. . .
(No really. Just playing.)

After that last post, I need some cheering up. Oddly enough, a memory involving my gallows humor supplied just the prompt.

As it happens, on the occasion of one of my friend's deaths, I "inherited" his last pack of cigarettes. But what do you do with a pack of cigarettes if you don't smoke? Being a sentimental sort, I carried around the silly cigarette pack, as if hopeful that it might contain some magical connection to the land of the dead. I remember going to some bureaucratic office or another and sitting there nervously. While I drank heavily in those days, I recall seeing a big "NO SMOKING" sign in front of an angry overweight female bureaucrat (the sort my now dead friend would have hated), and this prompted my mischievous side to take the package of cigarettes out of my pocket. Whoa! Was I bad or what? Now, I had no intention of smoking, because I don't smoke, but there I was, all nervous and full of a mischievous desire to eke out a tiny bit of meaningless vengeance any way I could. So, just as I felt certain that the pair of angry dull eyes was beaming malevolence in my direction, I took the pack and actually started making it go "tap tap tap" onto my other hand!

"THERE'S NO SMOKING IN HERE!!" was the immediate shriek in my direction.

Looking over, I said (feigning innocence, although in truth I was innocent), "I wasn't going to smoke them. I'm just tapping them."

Needless to say, this did not calm the infuriated bureaucrat down. She repeated her command, which was totally lost on me, and only made me feel more mischievous. I mean, if you aren't smoking, you aren't smoking, right? I felt no need to put the cigarettes away, because there was no rule against possessing or displaying cigarettes, only smoking them. The amazing thing was her attitude. I think she'd have been less irritated had I been a real smoker shamed into submission. (Or, I guess, guilt-tripped into submission, depending on your, um, "values.")

How could I feel guilt or shame when I had no intention of smoking?

One of these days, I'd love to make a video called "Playing With Cigarettes." But there are so many issues involved.

And so many loopholes in the law.

I know it's hard to believe, but as a free American, I still enjoy the following rights:

The right to buy cigarettes.

The right to possess cigarettes, anywhere and at any time.

The right to keep and bear cigarettes, a right which exists no matter where I am, because cigarettes are actually legal.

The right even to brandish cigarettes.

It's the brandishing which most fascinates me, because it's as legal as it is inflammatory in nature. Considering the general disgust I feel for the anti-smoking movement (especially its more pompous manifestations), I think there might even be a First Amendment right to brandish cigarettes as a form of political free speech expression.

How far can cigarette brandishing go? Is there a legal definition of smoking? Clearly, there's a slippery slope somewhere, but certainly brandishing the pack is not smoking. Nor is tapping the pack.

How about pulling out an individual cigarette and tapping it?

Putting it in your mouth? Is that smoking? Sorry, but without fire, there can be no smoke.

What about pulling out a pack of matches? Getting ready to strike one? Actually striking a match? How close does the match have to get to the cigarette before we can call it "smoking."

Can there be such an offense as attempted smoking? And even if the attempt requires intent to smoke, could deliberate cigarette brandishing in publicly marked "NO SMOKING" areas be considered disturbing the peace? If so, why?

Anyway, these would be fun issues to explore in a film.

But I think I should end with a sobering afterthought. Lest anyone think this is just a funny idea from a blogger, shouldn't it be remembered that I might be working for -- or in the pay of -- the (gasp) tobacco lobby?

Can anyone prove I am not? Doesn't that mean I might as well be?

What this means, of course, is that it's wise to keep in mind the warnings against hidden blogger evil quoted by Scott Burgess:

"Behind those quirky expressions of personal opinion may lurk, undeclared, some powerful forces."
(Via the blogosphere's lurkiest, quirkiest, undeclaredest, power.)

posted by Eric on 03.14.06 at 02:20 PM


Oh that's funny! I wish I would have thought of something like that to document for a collegpaper or project when I needed one...

Kim   ·  March 14, 2006 2:30 PM

Now I gotta go buy a pack of smokes.

J. Case   ·  March 14, 2006 4:00 PM

Ohhh, you ARE evil. We should play some day.

mdmhvonpa   ·  March 14, 2006 6:53 PM

Did you ever read Bellwether, by Connie Willis? It's a very funny book about fads, and she talks about the "aversion fad" against smoking.

All too recognizeable.

B. Durbin   ·  March 15, 2006 12:17 AM

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