Luck of the Draw

I’m not a gambler but I’ve had a couple of wins on slot machines over the years. Technically, if you’ve played the things at least once, you’re a gambler regardless. You have to play to win, or lose for that matter. Once while driving past Mohawk Raceway, I interpreted seeing 777 on my odometer as a sign so I went in, dropped 20 bucks into the simplest of machines and left with $60. Ridiculous stuff. I’m fairly sure I’ve put it all back in somewhere along the way because my brain had mentally banked it as free money. If I return and lose $40, by my math I’ve really lost nothing. It’s when you step over that line and start firing piles of $20s in, that’s when the problems begin. If you’re using a card where you don’t physically see cash, you might as well burn it in a pile. I’ve yet to see anyone smiling at the slot machines. Not once.


(The woman beside me said if they all had flames, I would have won big)

I used to be a smoker, of sorts. Technically, if you have even one on occasion, you’re a smoker. I loved everything about smoking. The buzz, the hint of danger, the social aspect of sharing an old brass zippo like a much less dashing Don Draper, everything. I would usually smoke one or two darts a day, sometimes none, but in times of stress or at a fun party the number always went higher. I’m one of the people that banning smoking in the bars was directed at. It worked. I remember my official last cigarette with fondness, sitting in a cafe on the Rue Vieille de Temple en Paris. The packs had stark written warnings then, no grisly photos, just a simple “Fumer Tue”. Smoking Kills. A little band of travellers playing rocking gypsy tunes nearby got the rest of the pack. Gitanes, no less. Talk about a cliche straight out of a thousand unwritten novels. I’ve yet to see anyone smiling as they smoke these days in the minus 10 weather. Not once.  Maybe the drunk ones.

dans la rue

(C’est idyllique, non?)

In my young man headspace, if I had heard the recent study from Johns Hopkins that only 1/3 of cancer is due to lifestyle and genetics, I probably would have kept right on smoking. This report is the 777 on the odometer for anyone still at it, which in Canada is estimated to be 18% of people. 2/3s of smokers are trying to quit or have tried several times. Countless others have likely switched to e-cigarettes and vaping, which are less problematic in most people’s minds and will probably be the future of the nicotine habit if it has one. So if you are a bit of a gambler and a smoker and you’ve got it in your head that 66% of cancer is due to bad luck, you’ve likely mentally banked those odds that the smoke you are having wont be the one that causes The Big C. Those are excellent odds. What the hell, keep firing the piles of $20s at your dirty indulgence. Somethings gotta kill ya, right?

Anyone in my life who has been a long term dedicated smoker has paid a heavy price for it with their quality of life, if it didn’t kill them outright. I was a pall bearer for one of them. Heart like paper, they said. There are a tonne of other things that smoking will do to you. My father’s prostate and bladder are trashed and although he quit 40 years ago, the specialist told us that if you have EVER smoked the science is in you are guaranteed to have some degree of trouble in that department when you are older. You might make it into your 80s but it’s going to be a slog, chomping back a Halloween Smartie box worth of meds three times a day. The old man didn’t smoke because it was cool, he did because everyone did back in the day. No one has done a study as to why we love old photos and films with smoking in them. Humphrey Bogart, an epic smoker and drinker, died at 57 having cancer of the everything and weighing 80 pounds at the end. Not exactly a noble Hollywood death scene. Was it bad luck or did all those whiskeys and filterless play a part?


(A healthier Bogart, 1928)

As of January 1st, smoking on bar patios has been banned in Ontario. Countless more people will quit, as did I, as it rapidly becomes a total pain in the ass to indulge. By all means continue to freely drink heavily taxed carcinogens that will cause a whole host of problems eventually at high levels but please, no more readily available demonized death weed into the atmosphere, thanks very much. I’d be quite happy if they cleared the smokes out of the corner stores and replaced them with beers. That would make plenty of people smile for once. Gimme a scratch ticket as well. One with a 7 in it, please.


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