Friday, February 29, 2008


I smoke, but I have the sense to feel guilty about it, and I'm intermittently trying to quit. If I'm around kids, I don't smoke, and if a child for some reason materializes while I have a lit smokarette, I either hide it or put it out. They don't need that stuff in their lungs, nor do they need a bad example (I assume that my coolness is so immediately evident that even one glance at me smoking would cause impressionable children to forever and inextricably link cool and smoking in their fragile little brains).

But to continue to an open letter to the other folk I encounter in the impromptu smoking area outside the hospital:
Don't ask to bum a cigarette. Especially don't ask me if you are obviously pregnant--particularly if you are "about to go into the ER wit' contractions" or if you're already in a patient gown that barely covers your 40-week belly. Would I run around the nursery or NICU passing out cigs like candy? Would I blow smoke into a PICU incubator? No, and that's why I'm not giving one to you either. It comes to the same thing.
Don't ask me if I have an "extra" cigarette. I never have extras; I don't buy extras; they're all for me, and they're expensive. Don't think you can get around the expense by offering to "buy a cigarette" either, because you're either hoping I'll just give you one and say, "don't worry about it," which is manipulative and disingenuous, or you're actually going to pay me for it, which is worse. You're sick; that's why you're at the hospital. If you didn't before you came in, you almost certainly now have C. diff and P. Aeruginosa and Goddess knows what else knocking around on your hands (maybe some drug-resistant TB thrown in the mix, judging by that sonorous cough), so I'd prefer you didn't fish that quarter out of your fanny pack, thanks. Treating professionals can glove and Purell up before they come into contact with you without causing offense; I can't. Don't ask, "Can I get a cigarette?" because my impulse--which I will have to bite my tongue to suppress, causing me discomfort and making me even less likely to give you anything--will be, "Sure you can get one. Hell, you can go get twenty--there's a Shell station just across the park. Knock yourself out."
Last but not least (this has actually happened, and would be a really cool story if it weren't so sad): If you are a 6 foot 6 guy, with multiple tattoos that your patient gown shows off to perfection, and a MASSIVE CHEST TUBE that you have just HANGING OUT, please at least hide the tube a little so I feel less guilty when you intimidate me into giving up one of my smokes. Because I will forever remember that I gave a cigarette to a guy with a pneumothorax/ sucking chest wound/ whatever, and I will always feel bad about it.
Speaking of which, doesn't "sucking chest wound" sound redundant? I think it is a foregone conclusion that penetrating chest wounds suck...ha ha. And to me, "spontaneous pneumothorax" sounds like the fun kind of pneumothorax, the kind that would call you at 3 pm on a Friday and say, "Leave work early, I'm at your apartment with the convertible and a cooler full of soda and snacks, and we're driving to Atlantic City tonight!"

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