Monday, January 02, 2012

“Smoking … the timepiece of my life”

I started smoking a pack a day at the beginning of college, and by the end, I was up to three packs a day. Smoking had become both the centerpiece and timepiece of my life. Every cigarette was six minutes long, and I could practically mark out the whole day with smoking, like a sundial. Six minutes on, nine minutes off. Repeat sixty times a day.
When I came across this passage in Bob Mould’s new memoir I was surprised. Here was a reason for smoking that had never occurred to me. Cigarette as timepiece!

I remember being delighted the first time I was given candy cigarettes. I could mime the grown-ups at last. I could playact the mystery of smoking. It wasn’t very good candy. And I wasn’t that picky about candy! Fiddling with the candy cigarette told me nothing about what would make one want to suck smoke and stink up their clothes. I did like fire. And cigarette lighters. Having permission to set little fires all day everywhere seemed seductive.

When my brother told me he’d been secretly smoking cigarettes I pestered him to explain what he got out of it. The explanation didn’t sound sufficient. Something about a waky buzz? I tried, smoking at least one cigarette sitting behind a bush near the little league bleachers. When it made me sick I was told that’s what happens to everybody, but you get over that. Plus there’s something cool about it because the people who smoke are cool. Oh? My stepmother was cool? I liked her all right. But, I don’t know, cool?

source: See a Little Light: the trail of rage and melody by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad


David Lee Ingersoll said...

I started smoking tobacco on my trip to Europe in 1980. We'd had to sign agreements not to drink alcohol or smoke pot on the trip but, being 16 and aimless angry, I decided to take up cigarettes. They were available in vending machines so getting them wasn't hard.

I never smoked them much. Rarely even a half dozen a day. As I got older I only got an urge to smoke after I'd been drinking. I haven't had one since about 2007 or 08.

For me they have a sort of relaxing buzz. In the last few years they almost made me sleepy.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

A relaxing buzz ...

I guess my tendency to get headaches from tobacco smoke interferes with the relaxation. I'm just not made like most folks?

David Lee Ingersoll said...

I remember that, as a kid, too much second-hand smoke didn't feel good but I don't remember getting bad headaches from it. One of the reasons I stopped smoking completely is that my body wasn't recovering from smoking as quickly anymore. I'd have a dry throat and a cough the next day when in the past I wouldn't. Since that buzz was only a mild one it was fairly easy to give up. I've never relied on a cigarette to chill out.

Tobacco does apparently effect some folks more strongly than others. A social worker once told me that he often knew if he is client was schizophrenic based on the amount of cigarettes he saw in the house. Nicotine seemed to help calm their anxieties.