These days, aside from the inadequately illuminated exteriors of nightclubs and bars, the ever-diminishing socio-economic group known as of smokers can mostly be found loitering outside hospitals and college campuses, or just about anywhere at all during the very early hours of the morning. I mention this observation, not because I begrudge or wish to prohibit people's pleasure in tobacco, but because at the moment I happen to spend a great deal of my time outside hospitals and college campuses during the very early hours of the morning, so I'm in a good position to know.
The smokers huddle around concrete, institutional ashtrays like vagrants around a makeshift brazier. Occasionally they embark upon random circumnavigations of the paving slabs, or make brief spitting expeditions to the edge of the sidewalk, trailing ephemeral jet-streams of nicotine in their wake. They glower down the street at nothing in particular, then return to the communal hearth to discuss the daily injustices encountered by their kind.
For some reason, there is always a preponderance of pale blue jeans and weather-beaten, brown leather jackets with over-sized shoulders amongst this group of puffing exiles. You could be forgiven for thinking you're walking past an historical reenactment of the 1980s, co-sponsored by Marlboro Lights and some anger management guru. I suppose these must be the loyalist smokers: the hardcore inhalers who refuse to quit despite lungs festooned with and blood vessels that are hardening into strands of pure crystalline plaque.
I, on the other hand, smartly turned out and wearing Clarks suede shoes, like the fresh-faced new boy at school, am extremely early for my first appointment with Cardio-Rehab. The doors don't open for another twenty minutes, so I'm forced to hang around in the cold morning air, pretending to find interest in the Brutalist architecture and freight delivery instructions. I almost wonder if the smoking gang will beat me up before I can escape inside.
I don't consider myself to be superior to them, of course. God knows I have my own fair share of stubborn blind-spots and idiotic misconceptions. It's just that I trust in medical science and they put their faith in the fact their best friend's uncle knew a guy who sucked down three packs a day, unfiltered, and lived to be a hundred-and-five. We have fundamentally different creeds, the smokers and me. I'll soon be running on a nurse monitored treadmill while they're only running out of cigarettes. Perhaps my efforts will all be in vain, but I'd rather try than stare at the floor with black lungs full of tar clouds.