First off, a disclaimer: I’m not really a smoker.
I’ve smoked before, I know what it’s like and I understand the buzz it gives you. It’s kind of neat, a little feeling of light-headedness that passes after about five minutes. The smell isn’t too tasty, and it stinks up your clothes. My throat is raspy afterwards too, and I don’t really like that. Overall I’m glad I don’t make a habit of it for several reasons, not the least being that whole lung cancer thing. In any event, whether I do or I don’t doesn’t change what I think of the action itself.
Smoking is one of the best ways to meet interesting strangers.
Take, for example, the guy standing on a street corner. His hands are in his pockets and his eyes lazily wander around the objects on the street. He has no real purpose, but there’s a reason he’s there. He could be waiting for someone to pick him up, to meet someone, to pick out his next victim, etc. No one can be sure.
On the other hand, a smoker has an obvious reason for being there. They’re having a smoke. They’re not required to have any other reason to exist. A cigarette is a small sign that says “I’m content to just stand here; I require no other purpose.”
Smoking forces you to stop. It forces you to stand outside and look around. Clear your mind. Suddenly you’re standing next to five other clear-minded people that just took an upper. Conversation can happen because … well … you’re all standing there anyway. The smoke circle is a shared experience, and shared experiences bring down social barriers to conversation.
I won’t get into the significance of the offering of a light or a cigarette, but both are like holding a door for someone and then getting to stand and chat about it.
Smoking kills babies, mothers and children, and in the end probably some people I know. It’s a horrible horrible thing, and I should go to hell for advocating it where children can read what I’ve written.
I can name three things that let men talk to each other without the fear of feeling weird: beer, smoking and campfires. Social crutches they may be, it seems to work.