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21. Because It Turns Out You Meet the Nicest People Huddled Outside in the Cold Trying to Kill Yourself.

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Illustration by Peter Arkle  

Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to all but end cigarette smoking in this city has been easily his most successful public campaign. Bars and restaurants came first, then offices, parks, and beaches. Sidewalks and our cars are said to be next. This is good for the city, of course, and good for its citizens. And as long as you keep letting us stand outside your bars, it’s good for smokers.

There’s a certain kinship among the last remaining smokers in the city, the devoted, resilient few willing to hop around in the snow for eight minutes just to chase the dragon. You have an instant conversation starter—freaking Bloomberg, can’t believe we have to stand out here like this—and common interests, from social persecution to nagging loved ones. And we actually converse with each other. When is the last time you walked up to a random person on the street and found him as willing to talk to you as you were to him? Smokers have seven-to-ten minutes, just standing there, with nothing else to do. It is a luxury New York City offers in no other context. In an online world, in this city, I can literally go days without a physical conversation with a person who doesn’t live in my home, let alone meeting someone new. By making us the outcasts, you have brought us closer together.

A confession: I gave up smoking when my wife became pregnant earlier this year. It’s healthier for everyone, and the prudent, adult thing to do. I’ve never felt so alone.


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