Do you Smoke ?
This is the commonest question we Doctors ask our patients during the routine history. Working in the ICCU for nearly a decade and a half and dealing with Heart Patients almost all the time, this has become a stock question for me. So much so, I have had great difficulty while I "Interrogate" the ladies; especially elderly ones ! Imagine a much younger man asking a seventy year old lady "Do you smoke ?"
If the man says an emphatic "No", he is mostly right. But if he sounds a bit sheepish, then the next line will be, "Never tell lies to your Doctor and to your Lawyer". That is a Malayalam saying. The truth is both Doctors and Lawyers mostly deal with differing magnitudes of falsehoods.
Usually this one works and then he'll say "Err... sometimes / occasionally / once in a while". So I ask, "How while is once in a while ?" Our job becomes easy from here. We can blame smoking for all his problems. From a lung problem to a stroke to a heart attack to a common cold to a lack of libido, you can blame all of them on the cigarette.
To those who have never smoked all life; we can say, "Well, that makes both your and my jobs easy. You have a better chance of doing well compared to a smoker !"
Now moving to the smokers; there are those occasional smokes, the frequent smokers, those who smoke only outside the house and then the chronic smokers. The addicted smokers are more difficult to deal than the alcohol addicts. They think smoking is a lesser evil and even consider it as a stress buster.
There are many jokes about smoking and smokers. The famous one was by George Bernard Shaw about the Cigarette having 'Fire' at one end and a 'Fool' at the rear end ! But smokers counter this by saying; The Greatest King ever was, is and will be SmoKing !
I personally know some people who consider smoking dearer to them than even the family, well only sometimes. A close friend who also happens to be a relative has a real problem. He has tried, or shall I say people have tried a million things to help him quit smoking. But he still can't stay off that lousy stuff for more than half an hour !
We all know smoking starts as curiosity for a little fellow, becomes a statement of style for a youth, a pastime initially for a working man, then a habit forming stress buster for the middle-aged and finally an addiction for a lifetime !
But at anytime in life, when a Doctor counters a smoker with the question, "Why do you smoke ?"; there is almost a uniform and stock answer, TENSION ! "What tension ?" has always been my next question. The answers have varied from being arrogant to absolutely dumb to plain obnoxious !
Here are some of the answers...
My work involves huge tension because I am in charge of an entire section in a Super-Market !
I am a Software Engineer and we have very stiff targets to meet. You can never understand the stress !
I am a head load worker. It is a tough job. We have a lot of worries and tensions. It is difficult to manage.
I am in the Insurance Sector. There is cut-throat competition. We need to be alert all the times. Smoking helps to relieve tension. And I don't smoke all that much, may be 10 - 12 cigarettes a day !
I am a Script-writer for TV Serials. My creativity depends on smoking. Output suffers when I don't get my Gold flake Kings. You can't imagine the tension we undergo during shooting !
I am an Advocate. There can't be any other profession with as much stress. The tension I have to face before a live hearing in the court can't be described. I calm down after a fag and am confident to go before the Judge.
I am a businessman. There are thousand tensions in business. Everyday we have to look into so many issues and when you settle all those, you have new problems waiting for you. How can we relax if we don't smoke ?
So much of tension I must say ! And then some of the ridiculous answers...
My wife is not good in the bed and I can't even enjoy life. All tension. What else is there for enjoyment ?
My mother and wife keep on fighting all the time. There is no peace of mind. So much tension !
I suspect my wife is having an affair with a man in her office. I can't do anything because she doesn't care. I am not that kind of a guy who beats up the wife. So much tension you see !
My daughter is of marriage age but we are not able to find a groom and so much tension ! For this one I asked, how old is your daughter and how long have you been smoking ? He admitted, she is 24 and I am smoking since about 35 years but it has increased now due to unbearable tension ! Aha...!
After going through all these answers, the reader must have realized one thing. We don't know if "God" exists, but if there is something "Omnipresent" it has to be TENSION !
My story doesn't end here. I ask all these people the following question, "By chance, if something goes wrong at your workplace or at home, does someone die ? Has anyone lost a life if you make a mistake ?"
The answers have mostly been... "Well, nobody dies, but why do you ask?"
I just tell them: "I am working in this ICCU. I deal with heart patients and Heart Attacks every single day of my life. If I commit a mistake or mostly even if I don't, People will DIE. Have you ever shoved in a tube into the throat of a man and injected medicines directly into his heart and thumped on his chest and given shock to him ? How often have you seen a person who was talking to you just a few minutes ago suddenly collapse and end up as a dead body ? How will you take it if you have to tell a 70 year old widow that her 45 year old son has just died of a heart attack ?... And you say YOU have Tensions ?"
What is your take ?