I am looking at a beautiful relic; an ashtray.  It is green and made of glass.  It is divided by a line of half circles.  This is where you rest your lit cigarette   in liue of holding it between your  fingers in between puffs.  I am recalling this from memory, because despite all of my searches at the second hand stores and tag sales, I have yet to find an ashtray of any kind, never mind one like the one from my childhood at my grandmother’s house.
 I do remember my mother and her mother sitting at the 1970’s style kitchen table, perched atop the complimentary vinyl chairs, green glass ashtray in the middle of the table, right between them.  The cigarette smoke trails from the end of the resting cigarette. The air in the kitchen is like fog. Adults didn’t really think too much about second hand smoke.  Here we were, swimming in it, weekend after weekend. Mom and Grammy both smoked Pall Mall’s , the gold pack.  Mom’s cigarettes had red lipstick on the ends and Grammy’s had orange lipstick on them.  My sister and I would always sneak the lipstick tubes to investigate them, mostly to smell them.  We carefully removed the cover and turned the bottom, making the orange paint looking tube inside rise up. It smelled like perfume. It smelled good. But, who would want to put perfume on their mouth? Again, as a kid, I once had tasted my mom’s perfume. I thought it smelled so good, it must taste good, too.  It was disgusting. 
    My sister and I were often sent down to the drug store to buy the Pall Malls, with permission to spend the change on a goodie. No one ever said no to us buying cigarettes as a kid. No one ever wondered why two little girls were walking 2 miles by themselves, much of the route without a sidewalk, crossing several side streets and one major intersection. This was like 30 years ago.
    Times have changed in many ways. Cigarette sales are much more closely watched. Many public spaces are smoke free, so say the multiple signs and painted barriers for where the offender can commit their crime. The hospital down the street from my job has the curb painted blue all around the hospital to denote inside the barrier as non-smoking.  Smoke breaks are identifiable by groups of 2 to 4 people just outside of the curb huddled with the cancer sticks in hands or mouths. How did I notice this? Well, they stand in the street, outside the blue line. I am forced to slow down to avoid hitting the gaggle of smokers. 
    Now, smokers are most welcome to smoke in their homes, much like my mother and grandmother used to do. But, at $10. per pack, the cigarette is not left burning in the ashtray very long. Smokers do give back to my community. The $3.00 per pack tax providing an estimated $60 million per year in state revenue assists state government in administering it’s various programs to state residents. Thank you to smokers for subsidizing our state’s government. They do it under such duress, too. Vehicles no longer have ashtrays, almost all public buildings have no smoking permitted. Even more outdoor public areas are becoming smoke-free. They have to risk their lives by smoking in the streets. Further evidence of the smoker’s struggle? With the exception of the outdoor version on top of concrete garbage cans in front of stores, filled with cat litter and a variety of cigarette butts, there are no ashtrays to be found, anywhere.  I will hold onto my memories of the ashtray.


About robin swetz

I am a creative writer that enjoys the simple things in life. I really connect with humor and really like making observations and writing about them with an overlay of humor. Its what makes my world go around.,
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