I had the annual visit from Coupon Man today. Every year he comes around selling a book of coupons for local businesses. Twenty quid a book but you can save far more than that if you make extensive use of the coupons.
Some years ago, I bought one. I saved more than it cost. Discounts in pubs, cafes and restaurants, some of them very impressive discounts too. I haven't bought another one for years.
Today I explained why. 'You can save money at all these places,' he said.
'I never go to those places any more,' I said.
'Well, you could have a cheap night out at this fancy restaurant...'
'They don't want my business.'
'Huh?' He probably thought I'd been banned for being raucous and uncouth. That's never happened. I was once banned in absentia from a nightclub for lending my membership card to someone else but that's it. I am not a raucous drinker.
I explained that, as a smoker, I'd have to stand outside all these places so there really was no point in me visiting them at all. I could just go there and stand outside for free, so why pay anything? Once again, I had to hear the smug denouncement of my terrible addiction with 'Oh, but you can enjoy yourself without smoking, can't you?'
Yes, I can. I enjoy gardening. I might stop for a smoke but I don't smoke while I'm doing it. I build intricate models, and can't smoke at the same time. I enjoy many other things apart from smoking but I also enjoy a smoke.
It's really very simple. If I'm on a bus, train, plane, or even in a non-smoker's car, I don't smoke. That is no hardship. I am in those machines because I am at point A, I want to be at point B and this is the easiest and quickest way to do it. I am not in the machines for pleasure, I don't actually like travelling and if someone invented teleports, I'd be delighted.
If I'm having a relaxing evening in a pub, smoking is part of that relaxation. Take away the smoking and the evening is pointless. I get on a bus to get somewhere, not to enjoy the experience. I go to a pub to enjoy myself and if I cannot, then there is no point in being there.
It has nothing to do with the price of drinks in pubs. Make the drinks free and I still won't go. There is nothing to enjoy there. I'll still have to smoke out in the rain and the cold. I don't care how much discount I can get in a place that is going to make me feel unwelcome the moment I go through the door. It's like offering me a discount membership to the Women's Institute. They don't want me in there, so saving money on the way in is futile.
I could not make Coupon Man see that 'going to the pub' is not an enjoyable way to spend an evening because I can't smoke inside and unless the pub has a beer garden, I can't drink outside. No, it is not that 'I cannot enjoy myself without smoking'. I enjoy many things which don't involve smoking. How can I be expected to enjoy seeing signs that say 'We don't want your sort in here. Spend your money then get lost'.
So I didn't buy the coupons. Coupon Man went away, no doubt convinced that I am too addicted to be of help supporting those local businesses but I no longer care at all. I can care no more than I would if any local club stated it did not want me as a member, then closed down because they wouldn't let anyone else join either. Why would I support a business that despises me and puts up signs to say so?
Sure, the pubs don't have a choice, but they did. They could have fought the ban, could do so even now. Still they insist that it is supermarket prices that are driving customers away. The supermarket prices, that had no effect on their custom at all before the ban, are now the sole reason smokers don't visit any more. The pubs didn't fight and still don't. Instead they insisted the ban be extended to private clubs. Thanks to the pubs, smokers have nowhere at all to go and we are supposed to support them now?
I haven't been in a pub for a very long time. What I have noticed though, is a decline in the numbers standing outside. It has been extremely cold this winter and last, and the last two summers have been wet. Those smokers who persisted, who were willing to pay premium prices to stand in the rain, are giving up on the pubs. Several local ones are closed on midweek evenings now. I was one of the midweek visitors. I was probably one of the first to say 'The hell with this' and start up Smoky-Drinky evenings. I am certainly not the last.
The ban has had no effect on smoking. It has killed pubs and continues to do so. There is nothing smokers can do about it because we are excluded. We cannot support the pubs. The pubs won't let us in. The pubs won't even admit that the smoking ban has affected their trade at all. How can smokers be expected to help a business that denies our very existence?
Let them die. New Smoky-Drinky 'pubs' are already taking their place. They are not open to the public and cannot be as long as the ban stands. Nevertheless, smoking is not in decline because of the cowering quislings of the pub trade (with far too few exceptions). Smoking is as vibrant as ever. The pubs are disappearing, not the smokers.
The trembling wretches who are frightened of the shadow of a smoker are to be pitied, but smokers didn't do that to them. They did it to themselves with gullibility and stupidity. I will not announce myself as a smoker until I have shaken hands with them because I will enjoy explaining that only undiluted bleach can remove the contamination from their skin. If they don't read the bottle, that's their problem.
I look forward to those adverts from companies who will not employ smokers. I won't work for them and I will not buy from them either. I have no Apple products for that reason - they have declared that they will not honour service agreements with smokers in case we poison the machine. Fine with me. I won't buy any.
Make me a pariah. Make me a criminal. Make me an Angel of Death whose mere passing will kill your firstborn. I will revel in it all and I will be what you expect of me to the best of my ability. You want to be frightened? I am happy to oblige. You want to hear how and when you will die? I will treat you to a discourse more logical and convincing than anything you have heard from any antismoking campaign, and you will die as directed.
Tell me smokers are ugly. Tell me it's the smokers who are stupid. Tell me I stink even though you won't realise that until you know I smoke. I once spent an entire day in the company of a non-smoking business associate whose son was involved in the early Electrofags. He said 'Of course, you wouldn't be interested since you don't smoke'. He had never seen me smoke. He didn't know. Apparently the stench must have been muted by the fact that he had pet dogs, or some other excuse.
Right, antismokers. You cannot tell who I am or where I am. You believe all the lies you are fed and you believe you can smell me a mile away. You cannot smell me when I am next to you. You cannot see me nor can you hear me. I will stroke your child's head and then tell you I am a smoker and I will delight in your palpitations and panic. I will hold a sweet in my hand and give it to your child and not tell you about my smoking until the child has swallowed it. You can scream and wail but it's too late. Third hand smoke is in them now. Think of the money you'll save on birthday presents.
You want callous. So I give you callous. You want subhuman. I give you subhuman. You want evil. Here it comes. You want terror. It's my middle name. I did not choose to be this way. You antismokers chose it for me. Nothing I do produces any real danger but you believe it is there and it will, in some cases literally, scare you to death. Watch me not care. Think of me as Darwin's angel, sent to remove the useless from the species.
I cannot respect the stupid. I cannot care about the shrieking harpies. I cannot empathise with the brainless. Really, antismokers, what do you expect me to feel for people who wish death on me? Send me your gullible drones. I will send them back broken. I am not interested in breaking your lies any more, it's more fun to expand on them, to take them to heights your pitiful imaginations can never reach.
I am not interested in compromise. I am not one of those smokers who says maybe we can live together. We cannot. You antismokers have proved this to me. You made me. All I ever wanted was a smoke and a pint and to be left alone. You would not allow that. Now, I am your Frankenstein and I am ready to lead you onto the ice. You believe I can kill your children with my mere presence, I am happy to oblige. You believe you will die if you touch me, I will convince you that you will die if you look at me. You think you are contaminated if I live next door, I will show you how to be frightened if I live in the next street.
Who am I? Am I your postman, your milkman, your doctor, your father or your brother? I could be anyone. I might be your social worker or your Meals on Wheels visitor. Perhaps I am the midwife who delivered your child or the waiter who served your meal. I might be the barman or the one handing out leaflets on the corner. You might have touched that third hand smoke a hundred times today and not realised it. Did you sit on a bus, train or plane seat? In a doctor or dentist's waiting room? Who sat there before you? Was it one of us?
You don't buy second hand for your precious one in case it's contaminated so you buy new. Who handed it to you? Was it me? Did you touch the box at the same place as I did? Did you?
Ah, and money. I pay cash. Every penny that passes through my hands bears the mark of the Nicotine Beast. Where does it go? Did you get change today? Did you give your child pocket money, in cash, that might once have been mine? Oh, the abuse you will be guilty of is beyond compare. How can you live with yourselves?
I play the antismoker game. I do not expect to ever be allowed back into pubs, cafes or restaurants, so I have nothing to lose. You antismokers will not give an inch, you will never let up, you will never let me have my peaceful smoke and a drink ever again. You have ruined my relaxation time and I do not believe it will be back within my lifetime. So I will hurt you. I will scare you. I will boost your blood pressure and break your hearts. No, there is nothing to discuss. No compromise to be had. You will never allow it. You want a cruel, evil subhuman and you have it.
And you know, I will not apologise. You're mine for the taking.
I'll make it a career of evil.