Smoking and Charley Fisher

Smoking is a nasty, dirty, smelly habit that can kill you slowly, emaciating your lungs until they can no longer hold a quantity of oxygen without rupturing. The constant inhalation of the noxious weed leaves its mark on your skin, your teeth, your breath, and ultimately your mortality.

Several years ago, as a rookie cop in New York, I used to spend some time with a cop named, Charlie Fisher. Charlie was a robust looking, animated character with a great sense of humor and a great passion for smoking. We used to make a lot of arrests and therefore would spend time together in the "paddy wagons" that served as the escort vehicles for prisoners on their way to court. Charlie and I would sit on one side of the square chamber facing the manacled defendants on the other as the van made its way to the halls of justice.

Charlie was a Camels man, one of those rough and ready guys who eschewed any type of filtering mechanism that would keep their lips an inch away from the tobacco in the paper sleeve. Sometimes, after making a collar late at night, we would house the prisoners in the precinct cell and meet in the early morning hours to transport them in the wagon.

Being a non-smoker myself, I was nevertheless tolerant of other people's right to injure themselves. Whenever I entered the quadrilateral chamber in the pre-dawn darkness with my container of coffee in hand, the smoke from Charlie's camels would be like a pea soup fog. He would take a sip from his container followed by a series of sucking sounds on the brightly lit cancer stick, then exhale a cloud of fumes that had no place to go but into the lungs of his captive audience.


The rickety noise made by the well-worn vehicle as it bumped along over cracked roadways, and the raucous din of a squealing transmission as the driver shifted gears, were drowned out by the guttural wrenching sounds emanating from my erstwhile colleague. Charlie would cough until I thought his guts were going to make an unscheduled and disgusting appearance. As soon as a fit of choking subsided, Charlie would, like a moth to a flame, put that smoking gun back in his mouth. No amount of warning from me would make an impression on him. He was simply too rugged, too hearty, too macho, too stupid to see what it was doing to him.
"It always makes me cough more in the morning, Bob. But it's okay, it only lasts a few minutes."
He was lying to himself and believing it.

I began working with another partner and didn't see Charlie for several months, and then I went on a 3-week vacation. When I got back to the stationhouse, one of my buddies told me that my tobacco-puffing friend was in the hospital for a routine checkup. I made the obligatory visit, expecting to find him flirting with the nurses and swallowing his usual cloud of smoke.

A receptionist told me his room number and I walked along the narrow hallway turning my head from left to right as I caught a glimpse of each patient. As I reached the designated room, I looked inside and continued walking, certain that I had been misdirected. Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks as I realized to my mind numbing horror that the wizened features of the frail old man in the hospital bed belonged to, Charlie Fisher. I made a beeline to a guy wearing a lab coat and inquired about my pal's future. The doctor suggested, in no uncertain terms, that I say goodbye Charlie.


I took a deep breath, braced myself, and entered the room with a broad smile. The intravenous tube and the oxygen paraphernalia were doing their part to keep Charlie's lungs and other vitals functioning, but one didn't have to be a physician to know that his life was quickly ebbing away. Charlie, however, delusional to the end, began telling me how anxious he was to get out of that bed and return to work.

His voice was about as weak as his lungs when he spoke of getting back to his radio car and continuing to keep his sector crime free. It took some emotional muscle for me to keep from breaking out in tears when he said his wife and 3 kids had just left a few minutes earlier, and that he looked forward to returning home in a couple of days. But, what really struck me in the heart was when he said that he should have listened to me when I used to tell him to break the habit.

"Bob, from now on I'm going to start taking your advice because I don't want to go through this again."
Charlie never went through it again because he never left the hospital alive. A few days after my visit, his tissue paper lungs finally collapsed and his feeble condition was beyond the help of any medical machinery. By the way, in case some other young, robust, chest-thumping he-men are reading this and are feeling invulnerable, Charlie was 29 years old and probably a lot tougher than you are. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.
Smoking is a nasty, dirty, smelly habit that can kill you slowly, emaciating your lungs until they can no longer hold a quantity of oxygen without rupturing. The constant inhalation of the noxious weed leaves its mark on your skin, your teeth, your breath, and ultimately your mortality.

Several years ago, as a rookie cop in New York, I used to spend some time with a cop named, Charlie Fisher. Charlie was a robust looking, animated character with a great sense of humor and a great passion for smoking. We used to make a lot of arrests and therefore would spend time together in the "paddy wagons" that served as the escort vehicles for prisoners on their way to court. Charlie and I would sit on one side of the square chamber facing the manacled defendants on the other as the van made its way to the halls of justice.

Charlie was a Camels man, one of those rough and ready guys who eschewed any type of filtering mechanism that would keep their lips an inch away from the tobacco in the paper sleeve. Sometimes, after making a collar late at night, we would house the prisoners in the precinct cell and meet in the early morning hours to transport them in the wagon.

Being a non-smoker myself, I was nevertheless tolerant of other people's right to injure themselves. Whenever I entered the quadrilateral chamber in the pre-dawn darkness with my container of coffee in hand, the smoke from Charlie's camels would be like a pea soup fog. He would take a sip from his container followed by a series of sucking sounds on the brightly lit cancer stick, then exhale a cloud of fumes that had no place to go but into the lungs of his captive audience.


The rickety noise made by the well-worn vehicle as it bumped along over cracked roadways, and the raucous din of a squealing transmission as the driver shifted gears, were drowned out by the guttural wrenching sounds emanating from my erstwhile colleague. Charlie would cough until I thought his guts were going to make an unscheduled and disgusting appearance. As soon as a fit of choking subsided, Charlie would, like a moth to a flame, put that smoking gun back in his mouth. No amount of warning from me would make an impression on him. He was simply too rugged, too hearty, too macho, too stupid to see what it was doing to him.
"It always makes me cough more in the morning, Bob. But it's okay, it only lasts a few minutes."
He was lying to himself and believing it.

I began working with another partner and didn't see Charlie for several months, and then I went on a 3-week vacation. When I got back to the stationhouse, one of my buddies told me that my tobacco-puffing friend was in the hospital for a routine checkup. I made the obligatory visit, expecting to find him flirting with the nurses and swallowing his usual cloud of smoke.

A receptionist told me his room number and I walked along the narrow hallway turning my head from left to right as I caught a glimpse of each patient. As I reached the designated room, I looked inside and continued walking, certain that I had been misdirected. Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks as I realized to my mind numbing horror that the wizened features of the frail old man in the hospital bed belonged to, Charlie Fisher. I made a beeline to a guy wearing a lab coat and inquired about my pal's future. The doctor suggested, in no uncertain terms, that I say goodbye Charlie.


I took a deep breath, braced myself, and entered the room with a broad smile. The intravenous tube and the oxygen paraphernalia were doing their part to keep Charlie's lungs and other vitals functioning, but one didn't have to be a physician to know that his life was quickly ebbing away. Charlie, however, delusional to the end, began telling me how anxious he was to get out of that bed and return to work.

His voice was about as weak as his lungs when he spoke of getting back to his radio car and continuing to keep his sector crime free. It took some emotional muscle for me to keep from breaking out in tears when he said his wife and 3 kids had just left a few minutes earlier, and that he looked forward to returning home in a couple of days. But, what really struck me in the heart was when he said that he should have listened to me when I used to tell him to break the habit.

"Bob, from now on I'm going to start taking your advice because I don't want to go through this again."
Charlie never went through it again because he never left the hospital alive. A few days after my visit, his tissue paper lungs finally collapsed and his feeble condition was beyond the help of any medical machinery. By the way, in case some other young, robust, chest-thumping he-men are reading this and are feeling invulnerable, Charlie was 29 years old and probably a lot tougher than you are. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.