The Rear End

Insert Smoking Pun Here

cigarette nostalgia produced by impending smoking ban

Mike Paulus |

So, back in college I tried to be a smoker. As much as it might sink my already humble rating on the cred-o-meter, I’ll admit that peer pressure had a lot to do with it. Which is to say girls made me do it. 

See, the third or forth time I’d ever been in an honest-to-god bar, a nice young lady offered me a cigarette. If you happened to be Mike Paulus in 1998, that’s not the kind of offer you turned down. I said, “Sure!” and then promptly reenacted every scene ever filmed for a sitcom where a novice smoker takes his first puff and proceeds to cough his lower intestine up. But the girl kind of expected that, so I tried again, and I eventually got the hang of it. In addition to all the hot chicks, I was also hanging out with a bunch of grungy theater majors at the time, and avoiding cigarettes with that crew was like avoiding spontaneous over-the-top Alec Baldwin impressions from Glengarry Glen Ross – it was damn near impossible. 

Soon, I became the innocent guy that everyone wanted to turn into a smoker. In fact, I think I only ever had to actually buy one pack of cigarettes, and I think I did it just to see if I could. (I could.) I bummed a lot. Most of this smoking happened in bars and at parties, but eventually I tried smoking whenever other people around me lit up ... on walks, after meals, before bed, between rounds of competition at collegiate speech tournaments. You know, all the usual cool places.

My smoking habit lasted all of two months. The walls of my tobacco palace came tumbling down one day when I tried to smoke a cigarette and something weird just kind of clicked. I suddenly got cold and started to sweat. Profusely. I had to take long, deep breaths and stare at a spot on the floor so I wouldn’t puke my face off. It was horrible. After the bad feelings passed, I talked to some life-long smokers, and they told me (in a bitter yet jokingly yet mostly bitter kind of way) that I just needed to smoke through it. Well, I tried, but the nausea never went away. And that was that. A year or two later, during an anxiety-ridden all-nighter prior to graduation, I dug out some old cigarettes and gave it another go. The smokes were well over a year old, so that experience didn’t go very well. I haven’t tried it since.


If I had any aspirations to give smoking another go, my time to do so in Eau Claire is dwindling fast, what with the new smoking ban all set to take effect on July 1. To be honest, I have absolutely no intention to attempt smoking again. If nausea isn’t deterrent enough, there’s all that cancer stuff. But what about all you real smokers out there? I suppose now is the time to start having those last nostalgic puffs at your favorite bar of choice. Enjoy it while it lasts, guys.

I have to say, I’m pretty torn about the ban. On one hand, the thought of going to my favorite bar sans secondhand is ... exciting. Excessive smoke hasn’t been keeping me out of local bars, but the lack of it might just re-spark my interest in them. I’ll feel better when I leave, and my clothes won’t smell like my chain-smoking great aunt Dolores.

On the other hand, it really doesn’t seem fair to me. You might persuade me to get behind a statewide smoking band, but this city ordinance deal seems to be taking a lot of rights away from business owners. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out customer-wise, but I really don’t care about that. Unless a bar is pumping smoke into their neighbor’s property or polluting the groundwater with toxic, mutant kung-fu turtle-producing chemicals, why should they be ordered to run things a certain way? I know the city is acting within the power we’ve afforded it, but perhaps that power should be reviewed.

At any rate, Eau Claire’s newly fresh-smelling bars will probably see more of my business come July 1. And I hope for their sake I’m not the only one who feels this way.