Insert Smoking Pun Here

cigarette nostalgia produced by impending smoking ban

Mike Paulus

So, back in college I tried to be a smoker. As much as it might sink my already humble rating on the cred-o-meter, I’ll admit that peer pressure had a lot to do with it. Which is to say girls made me do it. 

See, the third or forth time I’d ever been in an honest-to-god bar, a nice young lady offered me a cigarette. If you happened to be Mike Paulus in 1998, that’s not the kind of offer you turned down. I said, “Sure!” and then promptly reenacted every scene ever filmed for a sitcom where a novice smoker takes his first puff and proceeds to cough his lower intestine up. But the girl kind of expected that, so I tried again, and I eventually got the hang of it. In addition to all the hot chicks, I was also hanging out with a bunch of grungy theater majors at the time, and avoiding cigarettes with that crew was like avoiding spontaneous over-the-top Alec Baldwin impressions from Glengarry Glen Ross – it was damn near impossible. 

Soon, I became the innocent guy that everyone wanted to turn into a smoker. In fact, I think I only ever had to actually buy one pack of cigarettes, and I think I did it just to see if I could. (I could.) I bummed a lot. Most of this smoking happened in bars and at parties, but eventually I tried smoking whenever other people around me lit up ... on walks, after meals, before bed, between rounds of competition at collegiate speech tournaments. You know, all the usual cool places.

My smoking habit lasted all of two months. The walls of my tobacco palace came tumbling down one day when I tried to smoke a cigarette and something weird just kind of clicked. I suddenly got cold and started to sweat. Profusely. I had to take long, deep breaths and stare at a spot on the floor so I wouldn’t puke my face off. It was horrible. After the bad feelings passed, I talked to some life-long smokers, and they told me (in a bitter yet jokingly yet mostly bitter kind of way) that I just needed to smoke through it. Well, I tried, but the nausea never went away. And that was that. A year or two later, during an anxiety-ridden all-nighter prior to graduation, I dug out some old cigarettes and gave it another go. The smokes were well over a year old, so that experience didn’t go very well. I haven’t tried it since.