A few years back I quit smoking cigarettes. It was a good thing. It was the smart thing to do. I had already slowed to the pace of the occasional smoker, only with friends and only a night or two a week. So when my wife to be asked me to cut the habit for good, I was fine with it. It wasn’t the first time I had quit. The college I went to had anti-smoking policies, so during the semesters I was nicotine free. I’ve never had what I would consider an addiction: the hardest part of not smoking was feeling a bit awkward when hanging out with my still-smoking friends. It was the fidgeting of my fingers that just felt empty, not a nervous need for a smoke.
I distinctly remember one of the times that I quit (don’t judge, most quit at least twice). I had over half a pack left, but I had decided to drop it, at least for the time being. I walked out of a grocery store and lit up my “last” one. I looked down in the pack and saw all those lovely white sticks, those eleven or twelve perfectly recessed filters and wonderfully scripted blue type elegantly letting the reader know that the bit of heaven they are about to enjoy is a Parliament.
Now being the cheap person that I am, I couldn’t throw them away. That had been my intention, but now that the moment of truth was upon me, the trashcan at my right hand, I couldn’t do it. I know you’re probably thinking that I was just having second thoughts about quitting, but that really wasn’t it. I couldn’t just throw them away. I spent four bucks on that pack, and I wasn’t about to chuck it in the trash.
Then came the moment of redemption. I saw a homeless guy sitting on a bench just down the way a bit. He was next to an ashtray and was digging around in it a bit. Perfect! I give him the pack, he’s happy, I’m happy, and I get to hear his story for a bit. I’ve always enjoyed talking to homeless people. I got some of the best advice I’ve ever received from a man who lived in a park. Best of all, I don’t have to throw the cigarettes away.
I walk up to him, feeling very cool and with it, and I pull out this smooth line: Hey man, do me a favor. Can you take this pack off me? I really gotta quit, you know? He looks up at me, then down at the pack. He looks back up at me with a pained expression as if I had just asked him to swallow a medium-sized cactus. “Yeah, I don’t smoke that brand.”
All this while he’s digging in the ashtray. Talk about brand loyalty. I walked back to my car, more than a little confused. Did that just happen? My cigarettes just got snubbed by a guy digging around for butts in an ashtray.
Then I started to wonder: what brand does this guy smoke? I’ve got to try them. They’ve got to be incredible. I went back to find him, but he was already gone.
I don’t know what happened to that half pack. It doesn’t really matter, I guess.