CHICAGO, Ill.–When Jeanine Dennison's office relocated to Chicago from the suburbs last year, she fell in love with the city. But like many relationships, there was one dark mark that dampened the otherwise sunny affair.
"I just couldn't get over all of the cigarette smoke," said Dennison. "It was insane. I still lived in the suburbs, so I took the Metra every day, and the walk from the train station to my downtown office was literally a haze."
Having few hobbies aside from a love of math, Dennison soon calculated that, on average, she passes 57 lighted cigarettes every day on her way to and from work, lunch-time walks included.
"Sure, I only get one or two good whiffs from each cigarette I pass, but I'd say by the day's end, I've secondhand smoked at least half a pack," said Dennison.
Dennison originally tried to "hopscotch" around the smokers, but with little success.
"No matter what I did, there was always someone walking with a cigarette in their hand. And even though the smoke burned my eyes and throat, caused headaches, and made me a little nauseous, I eventually realized that attempting to avoid it was pointless."
Soon after giving in, things took an unexpected turn for Dennison.
"I've been working in the city for almost a year now, and sometimes find myself seeking out the smoke," she admitted. "It's the strangest thing. I mean, the smoke still burns my eyes and throat and is a confirmed migraine trigger, but it also fills my body with a sense of euphoria that I've never known before. Some of the smells are more exhilarating than others, and I'm drawn to certain ones like a gold digger to a retirement home."
Dennison admits to walking a little more slowly whenever a smoker is in front of her, and has even turned around to trail a smoker who passed her. When asked if she has possibly become addicted, Dennison tried to remain optimistic.
"I mean, sure, I have to clear my throat a lot more than I used to, and I now have what my doctor describes as a 'smoker's cough.' And, yeah, I've started collecting discarded cigarette butts just so I can smell them whenever I need a hit, but that's completely normal... right?"