Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What smoking seriously was all about

On the big screen, when the hero faces a difficult moment, a grilling by the cops, or a very important meeting with the Mafia boss, he’d draw on his cigarette meaningfully and flourish it about in the most stylish way and that somehow got his message across and certainly saved face.
Those grand gestures were certainly not lost on we impressionable young smokers back in the last
century and back at home from the cinema, I would have been just one of many young males rehearsing the very gestures before a mirror.
In those days, with American film stars showing us the way, smoking became almost a discipline which soon revealed you as accomplished, a professional, or a mere tryer.

My very first appearance

The equivalent of a movie scene – my very first appearance as a new smoker among adult smokers – came in my first news conference at a newspaper I had just joined. I was a junior reporter, no more a cadet reporter – at last!
I was madly keen in my relatively new career.
I’d done the appalling two years in a ‘reading room’ which was required back then and here I was about to be a real-life, real, live reporter! That very nervy vital first scene, my first news conference, had me dressed in a new suit and tie, standing among mature reporters, press photographers, and a sub-editor or two, about to be addressed by the boss, the managing-editor.
As the executive entered the room, I probably nearly fainted in the excitement, the wonder as I imagined it. Nothing in my life till then seemed important.

The very smoothest Hollywood manner

Thanks to studious watching of American movies, I knew what to do to make a good impression. I pulled a cigarette packet from a breast pocket in the very smoothest Hollywood manner, tapped one out in the gesture I’d practised multiple times.
We stood up in silence for the chief and I lit my cigarette in a manner that even Bogey would have admired.
Strangely, no-one said a word. Instead a horrible silence fell on the gathering. The boss sneered in a snooty schoolmasterish way and maintained the silence for some unexplained reason.
An expression grew on his face that might suggest we were all wrapped in appalling smells. Half a minute passed, a minute, maybe two or more. And then the fellow’s stare sweeping icily over and around the mature journalists arrived at me.
I was completely out of my depth. I assumed he admired my style as I so often admired the film stars. What else could I do but offer my best, most professional, draw on the cigarette.
Now he spoke. The voice resembled a judge’s under a black cap. He said slowly, and exceedingly sourly, ‘I do not approve of junior reporters smoking in my presence.’
Just when you think you have given the best performance of your life, you discover the opposite. If only the floor would open and swallow me whole. … Continues on the blogs for my ocean travel book, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com


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