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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

I Can Get Another Day Out Of This Shirt

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      I'm not a flashy dresser, but I pride myself on being clean.

      Fresh shirt every day.    Sometimes two, when it's hot and always after I've been to my favorite neighborhood bar.

      That won't be the case anymore.

      As the fireworks lit the skies late on the 4th of July the cigarettes fizzled out in Wisconsin as the new statewide smoking ban kicked in.    No more firing up a dart in a public place, including restaurants and bars.   No more firing my clothes into the hamper after a night out with the guys.     I can get another day out of that shirt, if I didn't drool on it.

      The first thing I notice now when I walk into my local joint is the abundance of space on the bar--no more ashtrays.     The second takes a while to sink in.    You're not sucking in smoke.     Sure, the patina of burnt tobacco remains in the wood, the rug, the ceiling and elsewhere but it's no longer being refreshed and reinforced.     The stains will get no darker.

      I never was a cigarette guy and don't consider myself a nicotine Nazi--y'know the type who makes it their crusade to make sure no one sucks a coffin nail.     The rumor at the bar the other day was that there were a few of those folks making the neighborhood rounds, sniffing around to make sure every joint on their path was complying and calling the cops after the found a place that wasn't.   

      All hands on deck this particular afternoon were complying, albeit not with a modicum of complaining.

      One buddy would head outside to take a few puffs between sips of beer.    He never smokes unless he's in a tavern.    Now, he's getting his roadwork in at the same time.

      Another friend--who also owns his own business--complained bitterly about government intrusion and how it should be up to the individual place to make it's own rules.    I agree.    I have nothing against smokers--the risks are well-known--and I appreciate the revenue the habit generates.    We all make choices that can drive up insurance rates.     Suckin' a Chesterfield isn't a wise pick, but neither is loading up that sandwich with wads of butter and a moat full of mayo, either.    

      What couldn't stand, though, was the patchwork quilt of smoke/don't smoke regulations being thrown up by individual communities.     It made busineses victims of their own geography and local politics.     I prefer the one-size-fits all approach: either the whole state is open, allowing shopowers to make their own calls, or we go smoke free.   

       There were stories at the bar about another tavern that lost three employees--smokers--who were told they couldn't spark one while they were on the job.     Good, longtime employees who are now looking for work elsewhere.      Strange thing is, they won't be able to smoke anywhere else they land a job, either, unless it's at a casino or outdoors.

        Call it government intrusion, the never-ending-reach of the nanny state, or a sound measure that means clean air for all: the smoking ban is here to stay unless Scott Walker or Mark Neumann become governor.     Both say they'll support it's repeal if elected, although Walker says it's not tops on his list of priorities.

        In the meantime, the black golf shirt I wore to the tap the other afternoon is good to go for another day.    


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