There is a years long construction project near where I work. It has been fascinating to watch the process, passing by in the morning thinking ‘I wonder what that crane is for?’ and returning in the evening to see a new skeleton. Every once in a while one of the construction workers strikes up a conversation with me. This morning an older guy taking a smoke break started talking about how he needed to quit smoking. He quit for 15 months and then started up again.

I told him I smoked for 17 years and had been quit for 20 years now. He said “And you don’t miss it do you?”.  I coulda lied but I didn’t.

I told him that it still smelled good, and I still wanted to smoke sometimes, but when I did it tasted and felt awful. The craving is there but the enjoyment is gone.

I’m sure if I powered through and kept smoking the nicotine would start to compensate and I would once again think it tasted & felt good. But I would have to work at it.

The will power to quit has to do with mastering associations, for me at least. It took years for me to stop wanting to light a cigarette when I started the car or had a drink in a bar. The first time I directed a show after I quit was harrowing. My habit was to smoke all through rehearsals – going to a pack a day during tech week – so that was a tough change to make.

Since smoke was in my cells since my conception, I’ll always consider myself a “former smoker” rather than a non-smoker. My last smoking trigger seems to be emergency rooms or hospital visits. Very high stress associations that produce an almost overwhelming urge to go outside for a cigarette. A soothing escape that puts you one step closer to the hospital yourself. Addiction logic.

I told the construction guy that if he could start again, he could quit again. He said maybe. For his birthday. He flicked the butt, told me to have a good day, and wandered back to the site.

The construction is almost finished now, they are working furiously rolling out grass and touching up painting. I will miss my random conversations with construction workers when they leave. I don’t miss my Newports.

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I read today that a pack of cigarettes in NYC costs $14.50.

A pack. Not a carton, a single pack. Cost is supposed to help reduce the number of people smoking or convince kids not start, so apparently NYC keeps increasing the “sin taxes”. More power to ’em if that works.

Cost never convinced anyone in my family to stop smoking. They would bitch and moan, but no one stopped. I am officially the only person in my extended family to have stopped smoking voluntarily rather than by dying.

I started smoking when I was 13 and cigarettes were 40 cents a pack. It seems impossible now, but I swear everyone smoked.

We just finished watching the movies Super 8 which is set in 1978 or 1979 and the one thing they got wrong was the smoking. It’s a movie designed to appeal to kids so they toned it down to a few people smoking here and there. But really everyone smoked all the time. In cars, at dinner, while holding babies. That was not in the movie.

The price of ciagrettes mattered when I was a kid because somebody was always sending me to the corner store to buy them and I could usually wheedle some of the change. When cigarettes were .$.33 a pack – which seems like they were for much of the 1970’s – tips were common. When the price went up to two packs for $.80 tips were harder to come by. Or maybe I was older and it wasn’t as cute to send me to the store.

Yes they sold cigarettes to children. The beverage store also sold you beer if your mom or dad called to say you were coming to get it for them. I have a distinct memory of me and my friend Bobby wheeling a case of Miller long necks home in a wagon one summer day.

Sometime when I was in high school the price went up to $.49 And everyone said they were quitting when they couldn’t get two packs for a dollar. No one did.

I quit smoking 18 years ago after smoking for 17 years. Supposedly my lungs are now back to base zero, like I never smoked at all. I dont think that calculation took into account the 13 years of second hand smoke but it sounds good.

My daughter will probably never smoke because we have told her pointedly that smoking killed 5 people in her family. Six if you count my paternal grandmother.

Smoking kills at any price.

I have a cold.

Sore throat, sneezing, stuffy head, blocked ears and fuzzy thinking. Its a drag and an inconvenience and I have too much work due at the moment to stay home and indulge in tea & TV.

A further insult is that my preferred daytime sinus meds are only (sometimes) available through a pharmacy because they contain an ingredient used to make meth. So I have crappy drugs that don’t really manage my symptoms because some kitchen sink chemist is now making more money in a month than I do in a year. If I am sick next week I’ll go in for a strep test.

Once upon a time, before I had health coverage, my first cold of the season would turn into bronchitis that would last several months. Granted I was a smoker in those days. And making $13K a year working at a small nonprofit, the cost for single person coverage was roughly equivalent to my rent, so I didn’t have health benefits. Instead I used the poor people’s pharmacy. Echinacea. Goldenseal. Garlic. Vitamin C. Slippery elm tea (blegh).

Turns out that Echinacea does nothing to prevent colds or reduce their duration. Its just a nasty tasting hippie placebo. And Goldenseal under the tongue will convince anyone to get better so they can stop taking it.

Maybe these home remedies would have worked better if I didn’t smoke, got a decent amount of sleep and had a diet that consisted of more than just feta omelettes, grilled cheese and coffee. Who knew. I do know that if you have to live without health care the best time to do it is in your twenties when your body will forgive a lot and keep on going.

Now I have health care. I have money for antibiotics and doctor copays. Its a big leap from how I grew up. My parents didn’t believe you needed a doctor unless you were unconscious or a bone was protruding. I know we got vaccines when we were kids, and saw a dentist once in a while, but until I was in high school when my dad got his dream job, doctor visits were infrequent.

I don’t know if that is a generational attitude or a poverty/depression child attitude. Both my parents came up hard during the depression, so maybe its a bit of both. Doctor’s just give you bad news and hospitals are where people go to die. A lot of truth in those statements.

I am happy to report that I have not had bronchitis in winter for several years now. I started smoking when I was 13 and smoked for 16 years. Now, I have “been quit” for 17 years, which supposedly means that my lungs are back to base zero, like I had never smoked.

I am happy to deal with this cold and not bronchitis. And, even with the sub-par decongestants, I am ecstatic to not be dosing with Echinacea and Goldenseal.

I had to iron a shirt today.

Usually my husband does the ironing in our house, but I suddenly needed a shirt for work so I was stuck. Ironing is always a kind of meditation for me. I am not very good at it so it takes a while as I create new wrinkles trying to press out others. Lots of time to think. My first thought is always my mother.

My mother hated ironing, or hated my father, I don’t know which, and inflicted her anger on his dress shirts. I have a very clear picture of her standing in her bedroom in front of the ironing board wearing a house dress. By the time I was in high school she traded the house dresses for slacks and knit shirts, but those early years all featured house dresses. The pockets, stuffed with cigarette case, loose change, green stamps and other assorted bits of lost and found, sagged like a GP on rounds.

She ironed with a cigarette (Benson & Hedges), her mouth an angry line, and kept the ashtray on the ironing board just past the spray starch. The ashtray never moved because the ironing board never came down. It stayed open in my parents bedroom for most of my childhood and was where she wrapped the Christmas presents.

Big Alice never made new wrinkles when she ironed. Her technique was a powerful and violent slamming of the hot iron onto the offending shirt followed by a furious pressing forward. Her whole body was engaged and at war with the cloth.

Being in the room when my mother ironed taught me to be still and silent so as to avoid her wrath being unleashed in my direction. I also learned to avoid ironing and wear my clothes wrinkled (until my boyfriend, now husband, offered to iron my clothes too).

I never did figure out how she could drag on that cigarette without using her hands and not drop ashes on the shirt. Since I no longer smoke, that skill will remain undeveloped.

I can iron when I need to now, and it always makes me think of my mom.