Up in Smoke
A nine-minute, stress-relieving, daily walk home from work can turn into a 15 minute test of patience—just add a five and seven year old.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, I love spending the time with my kids, but there are only so many times I can say “Hurry up”, “stay out of the street”, “put that down”, or “let that car go by” before I feel like the walk is some sort of parenting boot camp designed to increase my ability to contain insurgents. Despite the added stress, most days that I walk them home from school I really enjoy myself as I learn a lot about their lives and the things that they find interesting. Here are a few things I never would have known without these conversations:
- Dogs without tails are Dobermans
- Squirrels without tails are Doberman squirrels
- Rusty nails used to be worms but they died and dried up…not necessarily in that order
- China and Japan are almost the same because they make fans
- People don’t have tails so we are Dobermans
That was all yesterday.
Somewhere in all of that conversation Jack found time to fall behind about a hundred yards so Sammie and I stopped on the corner to wait for him to catch up. Sammie pointed to something on the ground and said “What’s that?” I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and had to have her point it out three times before I stopped overlooking the unrecognized object—a cigarette butt.
My seven year old daughter didn’t recognize a cigarette when she saw one. I asked if she had ever seen anyone smoke a cigarette and she replied “In a movie once…101 Dalmatians.” That was certainly not the reality when I was seven. In 1988 cigarettes were everywhere and smoking was part of society. Every time we went out to eat we had to specify whether we wanted to inhale someone else’s smoke or not. The cigarette lighter in the car still had a picture of a cigarette on it and an ash tray underneath it. Billboards still showed pictures of cowboys lighting up. I knew all about smoking when I was seven.
Times have changed, haven’t they? Public smoking is almost as rare as a busy signal. Here’s the interesting part, the number of smokers hasn’t really decreased all that much since I was a kid (25.5% in 1990 vs. 20.8% in 2007) but the public attitude toward it certainly has. It seems that society is trying to hide these human pollution factories away from the mainstream public and to keep them and their poisonous emissions quarantined from the general population. It’s working. My daughter knows they exist only because of an animated film that was made back before we locked them in the closet.
Don’t misread this post as a call to action or a fight against the evils of nicotine because it is merely social commentary. A conversation with my little girl made me think through some interesting questions:
- Could public perception wipe out the tobacco industry?
- Are children less likely to smoke now because it isn’t accepted publicly?
- Couldn’t smoking (and similar vices) be eradicated completely in one generation?