A Rant by Troy Boyle
The world was mine from 1978 to 2001. That’s when everything changed. From the time I was twelve years old until I was thirty-five. I was comfortable. I did what I pleased. I enjoyed my life. Then the world changed, I suppose for the better, and I no longer had a place in it.
You see, I’m a smoker. I’m a non-apologetic smoker. I’m not trying to quit. I have no interest in quitting. I began smoking when I was 12, and I was born into a world that supported and abetted my habit. Like on Mad Men, everyone smoked everywhere. We smoked indoors. Large ashtrays filled the coffee tables and end tables of every house, even if the homeowners were NON-smokers, because so many people smoked. You could smoke on any flight to anywhere.
People smoked on TV, and they smoked in movies. They smoked on talk shows. Johnny Carson smoked while interviewing guests. Even the good guy heroes in all of our movies smoked, not just the bad guys. I got my first job at 15 and I smoked while I swept up the place. When I was 21, I managed a video store and smoked at the counter, talking to patrons and ringing them out the while. You could smoke inside the mall and in every restaurant and EVERY bar. You could always find me, cigarette dangling from my lips, rolled up t-shirt sleeves and black leather jacket, playing pool in every bar and pool hall in town.
The girls I dated smoked. We’d smash the mattress and talk and giggle while smoking afterward. My cars always had ashtrays in them and electric lighters in the dash. The world smoked and I smoked with it.
Then the non-smokers and families of those who died from smoking-related ailments led a revolution that has seen smoking become all-but criminal. Now, you can’t smoke anywhere. NO public building, no business, no campus. Entire beaches and amusement parks, zoos and public parks EVEN THOUGH they are outside, are completely smoke-free. They don’t even provide a smoking area anymore. I am persona non-grata.
And yes, everyone tells me to quit. Of course they do. But the fact of the matter is this: you were right. The world is a cleaner, better place than it was. You are right to ban smoking anywhere and everywhere. But I’m not comfortable in your world. This is why I stay home. This is why I no longer go out. This is why I no longer date. This is why I’ve become reclusive to the point that a lot of the dreams I had of public life and political activity have “gone up in smoke.”
Shake your head. Click your tongue. Call it pathetic. I am a smoker and there is no place for me in your world.
Troy Boyle is a friend of mine, a tireless activist, a fellow pundit, and all around great guy. These are his words, and I couldn’t agree more – Al Stefanelli