Smoking out unhealthy habits in the workplace

Mike Royko

June 05, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

AS HE RAISED his stein, Slats Grobnik's hand was shaking. "Worst day I had in years," he said. "The do-gooders finally got me."

What would they want with the likes of you?

"At work. I come back from vacation and I get a cup of coffee like I always do and I light up a smoke like I always do but the foreman comes over and she says: 'Put that filthy thing out.' I tell her to mind her own business. She says: 'That is my business. This is now a smoke-free company.'"

Yes, that is a growing trend in American business.

"I couldn't believe it. So I told her, hey, where I sit, I'm so far away from everybody else, I could make a bonfire and cook marshmallows or roast a pig and nobody would notice it. I ain't bothering anybody."

That is not the point. They are not only protecting non-smoking workers from secondhand smoke, but they are protecting you from yourself.

"That's what she told me. And I told her I don't need nobody to protect me from me. What I do to me is up to me, and they ought to butt out. And that's when I asked her about her fat can."

Her what?

"Yeah. I told her, 'Hey, you're kind of a tubbo, ain't you?'"

I'm shocked. That's a terrible thing to say to someone.

"Why? All that extra weight she's packing can't be good for her health. Ask any doc. I told her that I'd bet a sawbuck her cholesterol and blood pressure were higher than mine. Or than Porky Pig's. And maybe that's why she takes so many sick days, which ain't efficient, so that's bad for the rest of us, right? So she goes waddling away and tells me that she's going to report me to the department boss. I told her, yeah, if you can squeeze through his doorway."

Did she?

"Yeah, and he comes over and tells me that I can't talk to her that way, that her feelings are hurt and I better not do it again. I told him that I was just doing her and the company a favor."

By ridiculing her weight problem?

"That's what the department supervisor asked too. I said, yeah, I'm trying to help. If we're gonna have healthy workers, we can't have blubber butts like her on the payroll. And I asked him when he's gonna start putting people on the scales and firing them for being overweight. Then I told him that he's starting to get a gut on him, too, and that he ought to lose 30 pounds, get some exercise and knock off the hootch after work."

You told the boss that?

"Yeah. I told him I seen him come in this joint lots of times and belt them down until he's cross-eyed, and the next day his face is red as a beet, and that trying to work with a hangover ain't efficient and that costs the company money, so where does an inefficient boozer like him get off telling me I can't smoke?"

You are walking on thin ice.

"He said that, too, and he reported me to the division vice president, and the vice president came down to tell me I better straighten out. I told him I was just trying to be a good company guy, looking out for everybody's health and well-being so they'll be better workers. And I asked him if he was still sneaking around with that secretary who works in supply."

You asked him what? Are you crazy?

"Yeah, that's what he said too. So I told him, hey, word gets around, ya' know? And I told him that what he was doing wasn't a good idea, bein' that he's a married guy with kids, and if his wife found out she'd go flippo out and haul him to court and pluck him like a chicken, and he loses the house and the car and pays child support and winds up living in a furnished room, and with all that stress and misery on his mind there ain't no way he can give the company 110 percent, so foolin' around with that secretary is inefficient and counterproductive and unfair to all the other employees, even if it is fun."

What did he say?

"He didn't say nothin'. I think he went to the men's room to sneak a smoke."

Well, how are you going to cope with the smoking ban?

"Oh, that's no problem, I was quitting anyway."

Then why did you cause so much trouble?

"I wasn't causing trouble. I want to help them as much as they're helping me."

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