Well, my story starts out in the late fall of 1978. I was in seventh grade and basketball tryouts were upon me. Everyone kept telling me not to worry about it because we didn’t have a seventh grade team and they only ever picked four seventh graders to play on the eighth grade team. My chances weren’t great, and I knew the competition would be tough. After a week of tryouts, however, I was in the final eight – a 50% chance of making the final cut. We had two more practices and then, the final cut – I made it – I was officially a part of the eighth grade basketball team. WHAT could possibly be any cooler than that?!
A few weeks later, I found myself on a bus heading for my first away game. I was still trying to fit in on the team, but it wasn’t easy – our junior high team was comprised solely of freshman and our eighth grade team had mostly eighth graders. There were about 25 guys on that bus – and, as one of the four seventh graders, I had no status whatsoever. I actually got into the game that afternoon and scored the first points of my career from the foul line. My performance in the game, however, paled in comparison to the huge step I took that evening on the bus ride home. As the bus made its way back to our school, our trainer, a freshman who I knew from my church, offered me his little round can. I knew I had made it – I knew that by taking just a little pinch of that snuff, I would transform into ‘one of them’ and could start my life on the “cool” side of the street! I was just 12 years old, but I was already well on my way to being a man!
Everyone chews back in that small western Pennsylvanian town – they say it’s because of the coal mines – the miners use snuff to keep the coal dirt out of their mouths. I don’t know about that – the mines were almost all closed before my big day in 1978 – and even today, in 2007, many kids still run around with tobacco in their mouths.
So, this is how I BECAME cool – I’d now like to detail some of the many ways in which I reaffirmed my coolness over the years…
• Carrying a 35mm film container around in my pocket so that I could spit during class – wickedly cool!
• Always carrying the can in the right rear pocket of my blue jeans so as to develop that totally cool snuff can ring which was all the rage in the 70’s and early 80’s.
• Deciding, at age 16, to just walk around a ‘Las Vegas Night’ party at our local firehall will a chew in my mouth so that my mother could see me openly chewing. She was not very happy, I recall, but MAN – I was sooooo cool for showing her who was the boss of me!
• Learning to perfectly time getting the tobacco into my lip as I crossed the threshold of the locker room after school. Chewing during school hours was forbidden – but chewing as soon as school was over was cool.
• Participating in the ritual of spitting into one very large gray trash can in the locker room. I did it with the junior high basketball team – and every other year through football, basketball, and track – I shutter to think of how many times I spat into that can! I could never understand why the custodial crew at the school never did a better job of cleaning this trash can – but I did know that spitting in it was very cool.
• Proving to all of my buddies, in a dorm room at Penn State University (where we were attending football camp), that I could, in fact, put the entire contents of one can of Skoal (fine cut is all they made back then) into my mouth for at least five minutes. SUPER COOL and profitable – I had bet them $5 that I could!
• When our bus to a track meet was delayed, I got to see my girlfriend one last time before we left. I had already inserted my chew for the bus trip and didn’t want to waste it, so I went ahead and kissed her with it in my mouth. I think she slapped me when she realized it – BUT – I was the coolest guy on the bus for having the ‘nads to kiss her while dipping!
• July 6, 1984 – Induction Day at the United States Naval Academy. My instructions were clear – I was to bring ONLY the clothes on my back, a toothbrush, and a spare pair of underwear. Well, I included a roll of Skoal (10 cans) in my bag and managed to smuggle it into my room. I broke the roll into two and hid it behind my perfectly folded undershirts in my locker. During the formal room inspection two days later, they totally trashed my room – throwing clothes out of my locker over their heads. Midshipmen Lieutenant Junior Grade “Stormin’ Norman” Peters found the snuff and held a can just millimeters from my nose (I was, of course, standing at a very scared version of attention). “Do you see this, Midshipman?” “Yes sir,” was my shaky response. “Well, you better keep this in your locked locker. It’s very valuable around here.” So, in just the first few days of my Plebe Summer, I immerged as one of the coolest kids around for having smuggled snuff into the place.
• Later that very summer, we got our first real good deal since selling our lives to the place – we got to go to Baltimore to watch an Orioles game at the old Memorial Stadium. Even better was that we got to wear our ‘Summer Whites’ uniform for the first time in public (you know, the one that makes us look like the Good Humor ice cream man?! – only Naval Officers and Pat Boone could ever get away with wearing white shoes). Well, it’s the bottom of the 8th, the O’s are down two and someone hits a three run homer to take the lead. When everyone in the crowd erupted in celebration, the cup I was spitting in was knocked out of my hands and the snuff juice splattered all over my white trousers. VERY, VERY COOL!
• May 25, 1988 – My graduation day from the Naval Academy. Dressed in our ‘choker white’ uniforms, the decision was made to hold the ceremony outside despite the threat of rain. 15-minutes into the ceremony, a steady rain began falling on my classmates and I – but I didn’t have a care in the world. I pulled the can of Skoal out of my sock, put in a chew, and listened as the speakers talked of our accomplishments. I then realized that it would be ultra cool to keep the chew in – which I did – while I received my diploma from the Secretary of Defense, Frank Carlucci.
• April 12, 1990 – Whiting Field, Milton, Florida – my big day – once again in my choker whites – receiving my ‘Wings of Gold’ for graduating from flight school. Of course, I had to get a chew into my mouth as soon as the ceremony was over, but I didn’t expect to run into my main flight instructor so soon. The time-honored tradition is for those who are already ‘winged’ to punch your wings (which are stuck on your uniform without the backs on the pegs) to welcome you to the fraternity. I needed to spit, but realized it would be bad form with everyone watching so I let my instructor hit me. He slugged me and it hurt so friggin’ bad that spit came out of my mouth and down the front of my dress uniform – not just cool – but REALLY classy too!! He then told me that the part about not having the ‘nipples’ on the back of the wings was just a myth.
• I began flying the SH-2F Seasprite helicopter in 1990. Our missions required us to be almost exclusively over water and thus we were required to fly, at all times, with an SV-2 survival vest attached to us. These vests were very bulky and not at all comfortable. One critical piece of equipment in our vests was a HEEDS bottle – Helicopter Emergency Egress Device – basically a small SCUBA bottle with a mouthpiece at the top to allow us a few minutes of emergency oxygen should we end up trapped in our helicopter after crashing into the water. Because the vest pre-dated the bottle, there was no design for holding the bottle – so the para-riggers put it into the large pouch on the pilots left chest and allowed the mouthpiece to stick out of the top of the pocket. The pouch zippered shut – and I soon discovered that there was just enough room to fit a 16 ounce soda bottle – perfect for a spittoon. So, through nearly 2,000 total flight hours, I flew around with a mountain dew bottle sticking out of my vest, possibly interfering with my ability to get to my HEEDS bottle if I had ever needed it. Maybe not the safest practice – but the bottom line was that I was tremendously cool because now I could chew the entire way through a 3 hour mission.
• March 11, 1999 – Possibly the coolest thing yet – I got to have my first ever picture with my daughter taken with me holding my spittoon in one hand, my little girl in the other, and of course, the ultra-cool bulge in my lip.
I think you all get the picture. My memories of dipping are laughable. As I sit here today, 100+ days into what is hopefully my last quit ever, I cannot think of a single benefit of chewing – yet I did it for 29 years of my life. If I include the first 12 years of my life as being ‘dip-free’, I will have to reach the age of 58 before I can make the statement that I’ve lived half of my life without tobacco. That, my friends, is ridiculous.
I hope that every young person who ever reads these words can feel the sarcasm dripping from them and can make that decision very early in life to either NEVER start chewing or if it’s already too late, to use this site to help stop it before it causes any problems.
I have had the misfortune of getting to see the effects of cancer on those close to me. In 1981, my mother had a routine ‘lump’ removed from her breast – as quick and easy procedure they told us. One week later, she was recovering from a radical mastectomy and the removal of ¾ of her lymph nodes from the left side of her body. In 1995, after 61 years of smoking mostly Chesterfield unfiltered cigarettes, my grandfather fell off the toilet in his house. He could not move. After a quick trip to the hospital, it was discovered that one of his vertebra has almost completely deteriorated. The cause? Simple – it was the large, orange-sized tumor that was growing at the back of his lungs. The good Lord was merciful on Pap and took him away after just three months and seeing him go from 240 pounds to just 110. He often talked about quitting his smoking habit – he had found the way! Finally, early in 2005, my mother was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Again, she was very lucky as it was diagnosed very early and removed before it could do any further damage. Mom never smoked a cigarette in her life – it seems as if she’s just pre-disposed to cancer. My point here is that I had to watch all three of these episodes unfold – and despite seeing my loved ones endure the pain and suffering associated with cancer, I would leave the room to put more tobacco in my face. The irony is unreal.
I want to start off by saying a heartfelt thank you to each and every person associated with killthecan.org. There is no question that the site was the key element in helping me complete the first 100 days of my quit – and I hope that it will continue to help me remain tobacco-free for the rest of my life. There are way too many people to name everyone – so I just want to hit a few individuals who truly made a difference for me. Navin R. Johnson – Navin made the decision to stop – and because we have been friends and co-workers for quite a few years now, I got to see the early stages of his quit. I didn’t HAVE to quit, but his quit certainly turned up the pressure for me to consider it. Then, puckhead threw his hat into the ring and decided to quit. So now, here I was – the only person left chewing in our company. I have to admit that I secretly was rooting for them to cave so that I didn’t have to endure the pain – but I set my date for New Years and after screwing up that morning, jumped on the bandwagon and used January 2 as my quit date. Navin and puckhead – without the two of you going down this road with me, I’m quite certain that I never would have succeeded. To the old-timers – most notably iuchewie, shoot2kill, franpro, and LOOT – the fact that you stick around to help out the new crowds is admirable. I can honestly say that MANY a crave was completely squashed just by running into one of you guys in chat. “Rob aka Indy” — you know what you do — it always seemed that you posted at PRECISELY the correct time to help me through an itch/crave/etc. Tread, DipNoMore, TBK, and others in the Motley Crew – you guys were my mentors – ahead by a month, I always knew I could run to one of you and the memory of what I was going through at day 47 was still fresh in your heads! You’re a good bunch of friends – thanks for showing us the way. The Quittin’ Spittin’ Crew – we have to be the largest group to enter the HOF! From top to bottom – you’re all the greatest. Let’s continue to do this site proud by sticking around through the years to help those just as our ‘elders’ have done for us. I want to call out NMUcat, jimjenkins1, and golfn who all quit on the same day as I did – there was no way in hell that I was going to be responsible for only three of us entering the hall on April 11th – I’m grateful that you all kept up your ends of the bargain too! Guys like RC, Coach, Capt Jack, etc – you got the group going and led us the whole way to the Hall – THANKS! FLAQuit – couldn’t have done it without the COWBELL – Bruce Dickinson is very proud! Bryan, DirtyTim, Paul42, and Crip – I watched for you every day and am glad we can all hit the hall together. Stay strong brothers – I appreciate you taking this ride with me!! And finally – and most importantly – is my little girl. She just turned 8 last month and has been incredibly supportive of me every step of the way. During the worst crave I’ve had, standing in a convenience store with a rack of tobacco in front of me, she looked up to me and said, “Look Daddy – here’s that stuff you used to put in your lip.” I may have bought a can that day – but she was there to say exactly the right thing. Her mother and I have screwed up her life already by putting her through a divorce and custody battle – but at least I finally had a chance to do something to benefit her – hopefully my quit will keep me around for as long as she needs me to be. Thanks my little Bug!