Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Smoking, Revisited

Smoking doesn't just destroy your lungs and heart, it destroys your house.

It has a been nearly a week of constant work to clean the condo of all the nicotine stains.  The tenant was only in here maybe three years, and the walls were orange with nicotine stains.  The vertical blinds had orange sticky liquid dripping down off them.  The whole place smelled like an ashtray.

It got me to thinking - were we just used to this back in the 1960's or what?  Mark's Mom smoked True cigarettes like a fiend, and she died of a massive coronary at 54 years old.  My Mother lasted a little longer - to age 72.   And she smoked right up until the end - that is, until she couldn't breathe anymore.   Smoking isn't funny or cool - it kills people.

But the smell is something else.  Back in the day, when we were younger (before we met) we would go to clubs and bars and after a smoky night of partying, come home and throw our clothes in the laundry.  That cigarette stink was hard to get rid of.  We didn't smoke, but it didn't matter - if you were in a bar or restaurant back then, when they allowed smoking, you would come home smelling like an ashtray.

I guess people were used to it back in the day.

But as more and more people gave up on smoking, it became that much more noticeable.  If you were smoking, you didn't notice the smell from other people's cigarettes.

Of course, since then, smoking has become less and less prevalent - and is only the purview of the poor.  Since so few smoke, the rest of us are more sensitive to the smell.

But after seeing our condo turn orange, I had to ask myself, was this what life was like back in the 1960's and 1970's?  Did people buy houses or rent apartments that reeked of cigarettes and just not notice it?

I recall my parents painting the inside of the house and re-wallpapering their bedroom during their 18-year stay at the lake house.  Was this because the walls were yellow with smoke?  Or what?

I do recall my Mother's Vega and the smoke inside.  It was a tiny car and with four people in it - two smoking, it was like living in an ashtray.  Worst of all, Mother held her cigarette at the 12 O'Clock position on the steering wheel, where it was inches from the windshield..  In cold Central New York winters, the nicotine and tar would immediately condense on the windshield, leaving a yellow stain.  When driving at night, the headlights of an oncoming car would turn the windshield opaque.  You just held on to the wheel and hoped for the best until the other car passed.  It was madness.

And yes, the ashtray was always full to overflowing.

Hard to believe we lived this way.  Hard to believe that people still live this way - filthy dirty and smelling like a tire fire - who wants to be like that?  And it kills you, quite literally.  Why, in God's name, why?

Well, it has been a week and the cigarette smell is mostly gone - we hope.  Maybe we are just used to it by now.  I hope not, otherwise we will have to paint yet again.  At this stage, the 50 years of paint on the walls is now a load-bearing part of the building.  Best not to disturb it.

When we found out the tenant was smoking in the unit, the property manager wanted to evict right away.  But the damage was already done and eviction is a messy and expensive process - more costly than a paint job or two.  The big problem is lost rent.  We assumed the property would be bulldozed by the time the tenant left, but old age had other ideas.

Still, it has been fun, camping out and working like dogs.  We are tired and achy, but the place is starting to look like something.  With the money we saved by painting and cleaning it ourselves, we can afford to carpet the place as the parquet flooring is starting to look sad after 50 years.

And who knows?  In 4-5 years, it won't even exist anymore.