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No Looking Back

August 7, 2006

"Now I wish I had stayed. Now I wish I had done a lot of things."
-Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

"Don't look back
You can never look back"
-Don Henley "Boys of Summer"

This past Thursday, Melissa came to visit me. Melissa, who I had a short-lived but memorable relationship last summer. She had abruptly disappeared on me a few weeks after the memorable St. Pete Beach weekend of 2005, only to pop back up recently on e-mail. It seemed unlikely that anything new could be resolved, but part of me just had to know. There had been something unique, something special there between us, albeit briefly. I had to see if that magic spark was still there.

So what did I learn from her visit? That you can't go back. Sometimes memories are better off as memories. But at least now I know that it likely wouldn't have worked long-term, even if she hadn't flipped out on me, and there's something to be said for knowing.

But, to be sure, we'll always have St. Pete Beach.

There is one interesting story from her visit that I must tell. On Thursday night we went to dinner at Ruby Tuesday. "You can smoke inside here," I told her. Melissa had her doubts; in Florida indoor smoking at restaurants has been banned for a few years now, as it has in many other states. But in Alabama it's still allowed... for now. In Jefferson County (where the city of Birmingham is located) it's illegal, as it is in some cities (I noticed that the Hardee's in Clanton on Friday had a no-smoking allowed sign attributing it to a city ordinance.) But in Alabaster, they still ask: "Smoking or non?" when you come inside. Ten years from now that won't be allowed anywhere in the United States.

Melissa lit up almost sheepishly. "I feel like I'm breaking a rule doing this," she admitted. As a non-smoker I'd prefer to eat without being surrounded by tobacco smoke, but the Libertarian in me doesn't like the idea of the government telling a business what it can and can't allow as far as that goes.

Melissa and I talked about how it used to be, when smoking went on just about anywhere without a problem. You used to see cheap foil-looking ashtrays in McDonald's and Burger King. Could you imagine that today? But less than ten years ago, it was a reality.

The second-hand smoking laws I can deal with; why should I have to breathe your smoke? But now there are those going after people for what they do in their private time. You want a smoke when you get home? Soon you might be risking your job by doing that. Insanity!

Smoking is terrible for you; the evidence is overwhelming. I choose to be tobacco-free, but that is my CHOICE. In contrast, the nanny state mentality of punishing people for doing what they want smacks of Authoritarianism. In Europe, the EC (European Commission) confirmed recently that employers are now free to refuse smokers a job. That has already begun to happen here in the United States, another intrusion into people's private lives.

Tobacco isn't the first naturally-growing substance to be attacked by the government, and this mentality creates an acceptance of the concept that the government can and should waste billions of dollars protecting people from themselves. That's how we end up with a war on freedom and a government that ends up more concerned with keeping you from harming yourself (in its mind) versus doing what government should do, i.e. paving the streets.

Protect your freedoms... or be prepared to have them taken away from you.

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