I just returned from Louisiana, where I went for a funeral.
I constantly craved a cigarette during the trip.
But never more than yesterday, when a bankrupt airline, some arrogant staff at two airports and a gang of evil baggage handlers conspired to make it one of the most exhausting, teeth-gnashing travel days of my life.
It took two cars and two planes, traveling in four states and two countries, to get me home. The trip included one cancelled flight and one clumsy dash -- bags bouncing off my shoulders and face -- to the customer service desk in Atlanta to get on another flight. I was running past old people who were also hustling to customer service. I got one of only four seats available on the next flight out. The people I ran past had to stay the night in Atlanta because I beat them to a seat. (Hey, don't judge me. Surviving airlines and airports is a bloodsport.)
When I finally landed in Buffalo last night, my bag was missing. I drove home and went to bed at 2 a.m., 20 hours after I had started my journey home.
Since I had no toiletries -- they are in the still-missing bag -- I had to go to work this morning with a riot of bed-matted hair and rank breath.
This past five days -- bookended with unpleasant travel and a funeral in the middle -- were the biggest threat to my attempt to quit. But I did not cave.
That's because I had a good dose of perspective. I got it shortly after arriving in Louisiana and having a brief talk with my wife's grandfather.
He had heard I had quit smoking and said he smoked once, too. Sometime in his 20s. More than 60 years ago. He couldn't remember why he started.
He quit after a few years. Doesn't recall why. Then years later he took up smoking a pipe. At the time he was a minister starting out at his first church. It must been a stressful time. But nothing so serious that he could recall now. It was a fool thing to do, he suggested, going out in his car to the drug store and buying his first pipe. But he shrugged off the hazy recollection with a brief smile and an upward flick of the eyebrows.
He quit the pipe, about 20 years ago, after a heart attack. He didn't linger on those details either.
With many children and grandchildren from out of town staying at his house, this man, nearly 90 years young, had only enough time to pull out these dusty relics of memory for a moment and chuckle.