Sometime in my unmemorable past, probably 20 years ago or so, a person I'll just describe as "sorta" prominent called and asked if I could meet for a drink. Well, yeah! I'll wander back to that invitation here in a minute, but at the time, meeting for a drink was a thing. It was why you went out, and the company you were with was secondary. Today, I think it's the other way around. For some reason not understood by me, people like to be around people these days. Never mind that we can't do that very effectively due to coronavirus self-policing, but it does seem that prior to coronavirus, people met more to be social with each other rather than to pound down a few and have a cigarette.
I suppose that's a good thing. However, I can validate that drinking made the jokes funnier and the faces more pleasant to look at. For certain, going out was more fun when smoking was in vogue. Sure, in the end, we finally became self-aware enough that we could admit to being rude assholes, but while the party lasted, smokers enjoyed a certain sense of empowerment because we were exercising our freedom to kill ourselves while also looking very, very debonair. For decades, our diminishing, merry band of smokers held onto the combo of Sinatra cool and war-zone camaraderie.
In that regard, I understand how all those mouth-breathing yahoos who won't wear coronavirus masks feel. They feel like they have every right to assholery and by God, if they catch the virus—no different than smokers defying a cancerous lung—that's tough, and that's their right, right? Not quite, because in time, we smokers were shamed into not smoking around people who didn't appreciate smoke wafting in their general direction. When it was determined that such smoke could harm them, governments at every level stepped in to regulate smoking in public places. It was one thing to make someone else's clothes smell bad, but it was something else to think your cigarette killed a waitress or bartender. We remaining smokers were soon relegated to second-class citizens. Deservedly, in retrospect.
I quit smoking more than a decade ago. I'm sure it's my inner cranky old man, but watching those aforementioned yahoos complain about losing their freedoms because they have to wear a mask in order to have a sit-down meal or cocktail is sweet tea for me. I get a kick out of watching them whine. I acted like that, too, years ago. It's cathartic.
I feel about them the same way nonsmokers felt about me: If you want to light up with your buddies, go ahead—just stay away from people. Do not pass go. Remain in your cave. We got zero pony points for nicotine addiction. We were pariahs. Today's "unmasked," though, are another breed. There's no evidence at all that wearing a mask causes anything but remarkably harmless tan lines. No freedoms are lost. I never heard of a smoker pulling out a rifle and marching on a statehouse protesting his right to smoke a stogie. Yet these anti-maskers scream and holler as if everything the characters that John Wayne played in the movies is at stake.
So, if that "sorta" prominent Utahn asked to meet me for a drink today, we'd mask up, and we'd meet at an appropriately sized table. Back then, however, we just sidled up and started drinking. I was smoking. My host suffered through it. No harm, no foul, I guess, as that person is still alive and kicking. Soon enough, we got to the crux of the meeting: I was asked, "Would you run for governor?" That was stunning. I let that person know I'm a shitty administrator, I didn't even win class president, I've never held public office, I have no regard for most elected officials, I'm a poor listener and I'm a Democrat.
"Yes, we know," I was told. "But you're the last-standing Democrat." What a system.
My answer was a very quick "No!" and I've rarely shared the last-standing Democrat story. However, in my May 21 column, I wrote how it's imperative that our next governor wake up to the mess that Utah has made of the entire liquor system, how the state is killing its vaunted golden goose moneybag. How it's hurting small and innovative business and business investment. How it's killing any reason for an industry or business to relocate to Utah.
In so doing, I named the Republican candidates, but referred to Chris Peterson, the Democratic candidate for governor, only as the "last-standing Democrat." Within hours of the column going online, I got an email from Peterson who rightfully took umbrage at not being properly named. My personal joke wasn't funny to him, and he laid out his case that he is the only candidate who will support the Utah liquor business, especially as it comes to delisting locally produced liquor products.
So, there you have it. If you don't want to be the last-standing COVID-19 mask-wearing drinking Democrat, give Chris Peterson a look. The other guys are too busy trying to get President Trump to ask them to dance to pay attention to the other half of Utah anyway. Give it some time. How do they sleep? Soon enough, Trump will drive one or more of those candidates to be reborn ethically, morally and patriotically. They'll say they were with God and country all along, just in a different way. If they don't, the rest of us can all sip a drink through our masks and laugh at the folly of those men, tanking their values, and know they represent the last-standing hypocrites.
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