Smoking on the job snuffed out
I WAS watching a tribute to 77-year-old golfing great Arnold Palmer when they showed a film clip of him standing in the fairway at Augusta National in 1960, about to birdie the last two holes and snatch the Master's green jacket off the back of Ken Venturi. Arnold looks down the fairway, takes a drag off his cigarette, flicks the cancer stick away and fires at the pin. That's right, Arnold was smoking WHILE playing in one of the biggest professional golf contests in the world. We've come a long way, baby.
You don't see many professional athletes smoking cigarettes these days, particularly while competing. John Daly, who won the Master's once, still smokes while he golfs, but he's like 832nd on the pro money list and didn't even qualify for the Master's this month. So the smoking-while-playing thing isn't working out great for the troubled mega-long-ball hitter.
Back in the old days when cigarettes were thought to calm the nerves and make you look cool, there were "smoking" sports and "nonsmoking" sports. Surfing, for instance, was a nonsmoking sport because the cigarettes got wet and were hard to light. In professional darts -- yes, it's a sport -- smoking while playing not only was allowed, I think it was mandatory.
SEEING Arnold smoking while golfing made me wonder what kind of jobs still let you smoke while working. I saw a guy yesterday in an automotive repair garage smoking while he was working on a car up on a rack. I thought, man, that company's gotta have one zany health plan if employees can not only smoke while working, but smoke while working under a vehicle filled with gasoline.
Journalism used to be a smoking job. Mike Wallace smoked while interviewing guests on his 1950s TV show, which, completely coincidentally, was sponsored by Philip Morris.
When I joined the Star-Bulletin in 1980, many reporters smoked at their desks. One rather acerbic veteran reporter was staring at her typewriter, elbow on desk, chin in hand -- the same hand that held her lit cigarette. Smoke poured up though her hair. An alarmed reporter jumped up and shouted, "Hey, your hair's on fire! Your hair's on fire!"
Times have changed. Back then, cigarette-smoking reporters complained about legendary three-dot columnist Dave Donnelly smoking cigars in the newsroom. Dave and his cigars were banished to a corner desk to appease the regular smokers. Those of us who didn't smoke at all had to go outside for non-smoke breaks.
Most people who smoke on the job today are employed as oil well firefighters, combat mercenaries, commodity traders or in other professions where smoking isn't the biggest threat to their longevity. If your job sucks so bad that you might not live through it on a daily basis, you might as well light up and look cool doing it.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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