Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where There’s Smoke…

…there’s someone fuming.

I have a long history with cigarette and cigar smoke. Surrounded by it from birth, my family, relatives and most of their adult friends had the habit. I grew up quoting, “I’d walk a mile for a camel.” “I’d rather fight than switch.” At Ganser’s Five and Ten (that’s cents, not dollars) I’d buy a red or blue translucent case of chocolate cigarettes and pretend elegance as I held the paper-wrapped cylinders between two fingers. I nearly choked to death once on an aqua-colored cigar gum.

My parents quit smoking when I was seven. Ashtrays stayed out for visitors. I never even felt curious to try. But I didn’t think twice about someone else doing it; it was part of life. In my twenties, I started entertaining in bars and supper-clubs. Smoke clung to my hair and clothes. Next morning, I’d wake up with grit in my eyes. I opened my guitar case and smoke wafted out. Even the music folder reeked. I hated it, but it was part of the job.

Later I abandoned the weekend gigs in favor of raising our boys. We took them to restaurants (to train them to be civilized in public). Some places had a non-smoking section. We’d walk through the smoke to reach the few tables set aside for non-smokers—next to the noisy bussing counter or the kitchen door. One quiet night, we chose to sit in the main area. The few around us were busy eating. But one soon lit up. At the first fumes, my throat closed. I could scarcely breathe; I nearly panicked. I felt embarrassed by the angry looks of the smokers at the next table, but we had to ask to be moved.

With the years it grew worse, and we discovered I have asthma. A trigger is cigarette or cigar smoke. By the second whiff I reach for the inhaler. I can’t begin to number the dark looks I’ve received. Do they think I’m faking it?

Last July, Wisconsin enacted a state-wide smoking ban in public places. Every restaurant we avoided is open to us. We still marvel when we walk in and can both breathe and see. But who could have foreseen the new problem? A balmy evening beckoned us outdoors to escape the crowded stuffiness of a waiting area the other night. I took one step out, inhaled deeply, and ran back in fuming, “Get me outa this stinkin’ fresh air!”

The smokers are outside now.

by Robin J. Steinweg


  1. I am right there with you Robin, only w/o the asthma. But my sinuses do clog up as soon as I start to smell the smoke. I grew up in a family of smokers and I was thrilled when my parents and sister finally quit!
    And as someone who LOVES eating "al fresco," it's so disappointing to be driven indoors by cigarette smoke.

  2. You are funny!
    Because it can be so difficult to quit, I do sympathize with the smokers who stand outside in the cold winters and the mosquito-y summers. It sure is wonderful not to battle smoke in restaurants and public places anymore, though!
    Thanks for sharing your perspective as someone who struggles with asthma.

  3. Gail, what fun to eat al fresco--I feel more cultured just hearing you say it! ha
    Thanks for commenting--and

    Lori, too--thanks for having compassion on those struggling with a habit.