May 30, 2007 -- IT may not make the Guinness Book of Records, but I believe I paid the highest price in the world to smoke a single cigarette - $25, to be exact.
Up front, I have to say I deplore the evil habit of smoking. But there are so many souls out there, enslaved to the sinister cigarette, they will understand.
Now, back to the exorbitant price I paid for my sin of smoking.
I recently got my bill from a very charming boutique hotel in downtown L.A. called the Hilton Checkers.
On the 21st line of charges was the notation: "Smoking in the room: $200."
Yes, I had been told it was a nonsmoking hotel, but like most desperadoes in the grip of nicotine, I've gotten away with it before in nonsmoking rooms. (Wrong, I know.)
Over a period of four nights, I smoked two cigarettes a night, defying the prohibition. Total, eight cigarettes. Hence, my extra charge of $200 amounted to $25 a cigarette.
Listen, I'm not whining. I broke the announced rules, and I'll swallow (or inhale) the fine.
Back home now. For me it's an hour trip on the Long Island Rail Road to work. I stop at a Hudson News in Penn Station. Marlboro Lights, I ask, and this very sweet, polite young lady asks: "Can I see your ID?"
Digging through a thick wallet can be exhausting, so I leave the newsstand on the east side of the concourse and find another, on the west side. Again, politely, I'm asked, "Can I see your ID?"
I go upstairs to the Amtrak concourse, again request my fix, and again I'm asked for ID.
I finally produce a NYPD-issued press card, and I think the clerk was intimidated (something I hoped would happen), and she sold me a pack of smokes, although the press card did not state my birthdate.
Here I am, with more lines on my face than the San Andreas fault. I'm racing into my eighth decade seven months away, and these lovely ladies want to card me.
All right, I surrender on all counts. They've banned smoking at bars, hit us with giant taxes, but why declare war on us poor, wayward souls?
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The $25 Cigarette
New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, now pushing 80, is still being carded for a pack of smokes: