Saturday, January 17, 2009


I smoked 19 cigarettes today. Not that it's any excuse, but the world pissed me off.

More specifically, the fact that the world is falling apart and nobody seems to want to do anything about it pissed me off.

Today was the first day in the past several that the mercury rose above freezing. During that time, a bunch of laundry piled up, so I decided to wash a couple of loads.

But no.

Halfway through the first load, the machine quit. It didn't even release the water first. It is about eight and a half years old, we've already had to fix the damn thing three times, and there are plenty of mid-century wringer washers out there still plugging along just fine. If it was possible to manufacture a washing machine fifty years ago that would last decades, why is it not possible now? Why is everything made these days total crap?

So I loaded up my soggy clothes, dripping all through the house, and took them to the laundromat, where I would have to pay $1.25 a load to wash them. I had a five in my pocket.

And the change machine at the laundromat had a sign on it that it takes fives and ones. I put the bill in the slot. It spit the bill out. I tried again. It rejected it again. I smoothed out the VERY minor creases and tried again. It again spit it back at me.

Hateful machine.

I tried a total of ten times. It was rejected a total of ten times. I wanted to punch the piece of $H!T machine. If I'd known for certain that the two security cameras in the place were dummies, I might have done just that.

Some idiot child asked if I wanted his help getting the machine to work.

I don't know what he thought HE could do about it. It was the machine itself, not my technique, that was flawed and causing the rejection of the money. The kid was maybe ten years old, and I surmised he was probably going to grab my money and run.

"No," I told him. Not "No thanks," mind you, just "No."

Instead, I went to the salvage grocery store that's in the same strip mall. I stood in line at the cash register behind some halfwit girl who seemed to be deliberately unloading her cart as slowly as she could. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

That's another thing -- when did it become perfectly acceptable to deliberately waste other people's time?

I finally got to the cashier and got three bucks in quarters and two one.

I got my laundry done, but I was still fuming. That's when my thought process went something like this:

Why do the right thing if the world's gonna screw you over anyway? I'll show the world -- I'll smoke CIGARETTES!!! I'll somehow PUNISH the world by resuming my nasty habit of sucking tobacco smoke down into my lungs! THAT'll teach it a lesson!

I know it makes absolutely no sense, other than the first part. But in that moment, it made perfect sense. The whole world's been shot to $h!t and there's not a damn thing being done about it, so I may as well enjoy myself with a smoke.

Besides, I needed something to take the edge off and calm me down before I came all Angry Unglued on the next dumbass I encountered, like one of the MANY morons in this town who are INCAPABLE of grasping the concept of Left Turn Yield On Green. Trust me on this, you wouldn't like me when I'm Angry Unglued.

Even then, the consequences would have been minimal if I could have bought just one or two cigarettes. But you can't buy just one or two; they aren't sold that way. You have to buy a minimum of twenty.

I stopped at the 24/7 and bought a pack of Camel Menthol Wides and a lighter.

I sat in my car, trying to resist the temptation to open the pack. The size of the box, the texture and temperature of the cellophane wrapper, the faint smell of mint all proved too much for me.

"Fuck you," I told the camel on the box. "Fuck Whirlpool, and Fuck Barack Obama!" I ripped open the cellophane, flipped open the box, tore out the silver inner liner at the top of the pack, and pulled a cigarette out.

I lifted it to the corner of my mouth and grabbed the filter with my teeth. The menthol danced and tingled on my lips. I flicked my Bic, paused long enough to think "Christ I hate me right now," and stuck the flame to the end of the cigarette.

The first puff was long and deep, with a secondary inhalation to let the smoke kiss my sinuses from the inside. The kiss radiated outward, not stopping until it reached the ends of my extremities.

Yeah, THERE it is, I thought. Why hello there, old fried. I hadn't realized how much I missed you until I got you back.

Another puff and the edge began to be carried away on the wisps of smoke, drifting out the window and into the universe.

I flipped on the car's radio, certain that Joan Jett's I Hate Myself For Loving You would be playing. It wasn't. I tested all the presets and settled on something or other.

I finished that cigarette and drove home. I didn't even bat an eye at the water main break at 6th & Chestnut that had the whole town under a boil order and left a giant crater surrounded by traffic cones in the middle of the intersection.

I got home, dipped the water out of the washing machine a cup at a time and poured it into the bathroom sink. And then I hung my clothes on the line.

That was 18 cigarettes ago. I have one left. Will I smoke it tonight? Will I smoke it the first thing tomorrow morning and want more? Will I stash it on top of the kitchen cupboards so that the NEXT time the world pisses me off, I can have just that ONE cigarette?

Time will tell.

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