Performance Review

(by anonymous15, 04 April 2005)

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The Performance Review

It was the morning of Memorial Day, 2002.  A couple that Linda and 
George had been friends with since college had left for home after 
spending the holiday weekend visiting. Bob and Jane had been best man 
and maid of honor at their wedding in August of 2000.   Since the 
couples lived two hundred miles apart, they could only get together 
once or twice a year.  Bob and Jane left early to get a jump on the 
holiday traffic going back.  This year, George also had a big 
performance review at work to prepare for.  It was coming up in 
exactly one month on June 27, Linda's 25th birthday.  There could be 
every possible outcome  from being let go to a promotion.  He was on 
edge over this because he had been with the firm only two years and 
knew that they were cutting back.  Also, while the visit had been 
fun, their visitors' smoking had triggered an urge in George.  He was 
spending a lot of time at home and at work preparing for this review, 
which included interviews with some big bosses about his 
accomplishments.  He felt like he needed cigarettes to get through 
the coming month.

But how to tell Linda?  She had gotten him to quit the summer before 
by threatening to start herself.  He wanted to go back to smoking 
earlier that year because of work pressure.  He told her on a Friday 
evening in mid-January.  As before, Linda's "deal" was, "If you do, 
then I'll smoke too.  I tried a couple of puffs last summer, and I 
think I can get used to it." Linda had never smoked regularly.   Once 
before, she had challenged him this way, but the two puffs of 
George's cigarette that she tried made her change her mind.  This 
time, she was more determined.  Realizing that she meant it, George 
had bought a pack each of Benson-Hedges Full Flavor and Ultra-Light 
regulars, the latter coming in a box.  He preferred the FF's, but 
wanted to keep Linda on UL's if she did decide to try smoking again.  
True to her word, Linda smoked two UL's with him that night with no 
difficulty.  The following day, she tried a FF and didn't like it, so 
she stayed with the UL's.  He also stayed on UL's for her once he 
finished the pack of FF's, although the ULs weren't as satisfying to 
him.  A week later in the pharmacy where he bought cigarettes, he was 
given a box of UL menthols by mistake.  But Linda liked those 
better.  Also, George kept the volume light.  They had only about 
five or less a day, and he never showed Linda how to inhale, although 
he did himself.  Linda had told him in February that she was 
considering "continuing to smoke," and that she had no problems 
with "going public" with smoking.  Several of their friends smoked, 
and she felt that she would fit in.  She told him that she was 
considering bringing cigarettes to a neighborhood Valentine's Day 
party that they were going to.  George didn't want Linda to take up 
smoking.  At his suggestion, both quit the day before Valentine's 
Day, although Linda brought it up a couple of times after that, 
including the night of the party.  To avoid tempting Linda this time, 
George came up with the idea of just having his study as a smoking 
room.  That way, Linda would not be exposed to the smoke and want to 
do it herself.  If he got a carton of B&H FF regulars, his favorite 
brand and also the brand that Linda had tried and did not like, it 
should last him through the review date, and Linda would not be 
tempted to smoke.

After Bob and Jane left, George asked Linda if they could have some 
coffee together and talk.  They poured the coffee and sat at the 
kitchen table.  The ash tray that Bob and Jane had used was still on 
the table.  As Linda emptied it, George started the 
conversation.  "My reviews are coming up at work in less than a 
month, and I'm really nervous."  Linda answered with a question, "Do 
you think you'll do OK on them?"  George answered, "I feel like there 
is so much to do to get ready.  It's getting overwhelming."  Linda 
asked what she could do to help.  This was an in.

George took Linda's hand and asked her, "Honey, would you mind if I 
smoked at home between now and the reviews?"  Linda started to 
answer, but George continued, "I can't do it at work because lately, 
it has come across that even going outside is not the thing to do.  I 
would only do it in the study, and that way, you wouldn't have to 
come into contact with it."  Linda answered with, "But that's not the 
point.  We tried smoking for a month earlier this year, and we both 
agreed to quit.  I don't know about you, but I had a hard time."  
Linda also admitted that the Monday evening before they quit, while 
he was working late, she smoked a cigarette at home by herself and 
tried inhaling a few puffs, and she liked it.  It had triggered her 
desire to continue smoking.  Also, after seeing and smelling Jane's 
B&H  menthols, she wanted to ask Jane for a cigarette during the 
visit, but that she didn't because of their quitting.  George 
answered, "I know.  I feel bad about bringing it up again, since 
quitting was my idea." 

Linda also added, "And I don't think you should smoke behind closed 
doors.  Even if you hide it from me, I'll know that you are doing 
it."  George said nothing.  Linda asked him, "Do you really think you 
need to do this?"  George nodded.  Linda answered as before, "Then 
I'll smoke too." 

George said, "No, you don't have to.  There's no reason."  Linda 
answered, "I know how now.  And I like it.  That's reason enough.  
That way, you can do it anywhere in the house that you want to 
because I'll also be smoking."  George answered that he was actually 
thinking about a carton of B&H FF's.  Linda answered, "Well, get 
those for yourself and the menthols that I smoked before for me."

They finished the coffee.  Linda told George, "You might as well go 
get them now."  George got in the car and drove to the pharmacy.  He 
began to wonder if Linda meant for him to get a pack or two, or a 
carton of menthols.  He decided to play it safe.  If she didn't want 
the whole carton, he could finish them.  So he went into the 
store.  "A carton of Benson - Hedges full-flavor and a carton of 
Benson - Hedges ultra-light menthols."  The clerk got the two 
cartons, and George paid for them.

Once home, he set the cartons on the table.  Linda had already gotten 
out some matches and had put the ash tray back on the kitchen table.  
She had also placed another ash tray on George's desk in the study.  
Linda was surprised, "You got two whole cartons?"  George reminded 
her that he said that he was going to get a carton and assumed that 
she wanted the same quantity.  He also pointed out, "You can give any 
to me that you don't want."  Linda picked up her carton.  She looked 
pleased  "I'm glad you got menthols!"  She opened the end of her 
carton and took out a box.  George did the same.  They opened their 
cigarettes.  Linda took the matches first and lit her cigarette.  She 
inhaled, threw her head back and blew the smoke out slowly,  giving a 
sigh of pleasure.  She took another puff and inhaled, feeling the 
buzz.  Through her exhale, she exclaimed, "Wow, these taste good.  I 
missed them."

They continued to smoke about five on weekdays to ten a day on 
weekends for the four weeks, and only in the house as George wanted.  
Linda only smoked when George was home as she worked full-time, too.  
The one exception was the day of the review. Linda's firm, a medical 
billing service, always gave their employees the day off on their 
birthday.  Home alone and apprehensive at how the review was going, 
over the course of the day Linda smoked several cigarettes by 
herself, including some of George's FF's which she found weren't too 
bad inhaled..  Meanwhile, George went through his reviews, giving a 
report on his accomplishments to the higher ups.  The next day, on a 
Friday afternoon, the decision came down.  He was being re-assigned 
to a new job with more responsibility and a paycheck to match! George 
got home a few minutes before Linda.  When she arrived, he met her at 
the door, threw his arms around her and announced the news to his 
excited wife.

They walked to the kitchen.  On the table they each had one opened 
pack with a few cigarettes left.  After the initial excitement, 
George reached for the cigarettes.  He threw both packs in the 
garbage can, announcing that he no longer needed to smoke and that he 
was quitting.  Linda, now subdued, answered "I have to go to the 
store.  I'll be right back."  She got into the car.  Arriving back 
home about 15 minutes later, she pulled into the driveway with a lit 
cigarette in her left hand over the steering wheel.  In the driveway, 
she took a puff as she closed the car door, and carried her cigarette 
and the rest of a carton of B&H UL menthols into the house.  Both 
publicly and privately, and gravitating from UL to FF menthols, Linda 
has been smoking ever since.

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