Doug Goes Person-to-Person and Talks About his Tongue!

July 7, 2017


SVHC: Catching up with Doug and sharing his stories about approaching smokers and talking to them about his tongue surgery!





DOUG: JUNE 27 - I'm out walking with Rosie this morning at 7 AM. (This tires her out). 


 A guy rides up to me on his bike and says, "Do you smoke?"


Right away my mind starts processing this.  Why would he ask me that?  Aha!  He probably wants a cigarette and knows that if I do not smoke, no sense asking me.  This is called qualifying the prospect. 


If somebody is broke, you don’t want to waste your time trying to sell him something.


I said, "No.  But I used to smoke.  Now I have to tell you about my tongue."


He listened with rapt attention.  Now he’s been warned.


JULY 5 - I spoke with three smokers this morning.  None of them plans to stop.  All of them see their smoking habit as a vice of last resort - as though one cannot live without some sort of substance abuse.


 The first was Mark Kelly.  Not the astronaut - this guy is too tall for a seat on the space shuttle.  He was standing on the sidewalk admiring the wild flowers he had planted in his front yard.  I told him the story about my tongue.  Mark did not start smoking cigarettes until he was thirty-one and he said he has no thoughts of quitting.  He said he used to smoke pot when he was younger, but would not mess with that or any other drugs today.


I told him my name and he says, "I remember you from TEDx Cortland.  I was there and heard you give your talk."  So I did not have to explain to him why I had my little bag of litter.


Then I came across my friend Larry Millick, looking clean and healthy on Main Street.  He had a new pair of glasses.  I have been keeping an eye out for him as I pass his place on Madison Street.  Today he tells me he has moved.  He has a room over the Gable Inn.  He has recently walked away from alcohol and heroin.  All he has to hang onto now is his cigarette habit.  I know better than to upset the balance with this guy.  He is on a tightrope walk.  He is always ready for a hug - grateful to those who support him and cheer him on.  I always oblige.  This guy came back from the edge of the abyss.  I will stop looking for him at the old house.  Someone new has already taken has already taken his place on that porch.


As I pedaled my way up Kellogg Road I noticed cars parked all along the road by Crown Park (no longer Crown Center).  Big trucks were there and men were tearing up the parking lot.  I saw a guy in a squat by the curb - sitting on his heels with his cigarette in hand.  "Perfect day to roll out new blacktop," I said. He looks up, "Only about fifteen years overdue!"


I said, "Hey!  I have to tell you about my tongue."  And I do.


"Is that from smoking?"  I smile and note that I smoked a pack and a half a day for close to 30 years.  I don't tell him that I have not smoked in over 21 years.


"Have you thought about stopping?" I ask.


Clay smiles and says, I do not drink any more, but I need this, he says, looking down at the cigarette between his fingers.  This is a very stressful job and coming out here for a smoke provides me with a little safety valve.  I don't blow off steam, I blow a little smoke.


"Well, I gotta get back," he says, popping up to his feet from that deep knee bend.  I watch and wonder if I would be able to spring back up from down there.  Of course those knees are probably twenty years younger than mine.


"I'm Doug, by the way," I say as he shakes my hand.


"I'm Clay," he says, "it was nice talking with you."


I have seen this guy sitting on his heels with his knee joints fully bent dozens of times as I pass Crown Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.  He's a redhead.  That will help me remember his name.  Next time I will have my phone out and I will invite him to pose for a selfie.


JULY 7 - This morning as I walked Rosie the rescue pup, I saw a guy standing in a driveway on North Main Street. I passed him, collected all the cigarette butts there on the sidewalk in front of CAPCO, and then went back to approach him.



"Do you smoke?" I asked. He probably thought I was looking for a cigarette. "Yes." "Well, then I have to tell you about my tongue." Dave said he just smokes to fill in the time - so he's doing something instead of doing nothing. "I know I should stop. A while back I went for five days in a row without a cigarette." I smiled to hear this. He's already had a dry run. "Well there you go! You can do this! Then you can keep your tongue!"


 I moved on, taking a left onto Maple Avenue.  I came upon a lady sitting on the porch step with a little girl.  Probably her granddaughter.  The little girl had been curiously watching me as I came up the street collecting gum wrappers, plastic bags, empty coffee cups, and other assorted trash along the sidewalk and the street. I went passed them, looked back and saw the little girl eyeing Rosie.  Rosie is afraid of everything and everybody.  So I picked her up and brought her over to see the little girl.  I told the story of how Rosie and her sister were abandoned by the Otselic River in May (14 months ago).


The woman asked if I was a Perry or related to a Perry.  "You look just like my father!" she said.  Then I told her about moving to Cortland in 1958, when my dad bought an old hardware store.  She remembers shopping there.  As we talked, the little girl found a paper plate and brought it to me.  "Good find!" I said as I stuffed it into my little blue bag.  Then she came back with a McDonald French fry pocket.  "You are good at this!" I told her.  Pretty soon this little girl had tidied up the whole front yard and the driveway.


Eventually, I noticed the woman's pack of cigarettes there next to her on the porch step.  Time had come for my opening line.


"I have to tell you about my tongue."  I gave her the whole story.


"I know that I need to quit,"  she said.


"I know it is not easy, but you can do it Linda."




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