While I have hundreds of fond memories of the old 31, nothing warms my heart like thoughts of the smoking room, that place where political correctness ended and liberty began. I don't smoke anymore, but I did when I worked at WAAY.
The smoking denizens gathered like clockwork at certain times of the day. There must've been some magic signal that was transmitted via the cosmos to the minds of smokers throughout the building, because we all seemed to arrive together. In fact, the worst thing was to arrive as others were leaving, usually laughing, because you'd obviously missing something funny. We laughed a lot back there. We cried some too. We were a little community within the overall WAAY community. Smokers are like that.
People put up with my cigars, but smokers are like that too, tolerant to the max. I'd light one up in the morning and leave it in one of the WAAY designer ashtrays to be re lit throughout the day. Only once did it disappear with the trash before I was finished with it. My friends saw to that. Smokers are like that too.
It was our lunch room and the heart of the WAAY gossip wire. Nobody was off limits, not even every past or present member of the Smith family. It was a time and a place to embellish, to boast, and mostly to let off a little steam. And who can forget the smoker (no names, please) who fell asleep and set the couch on fire. Or the noisy fan. Or the times the smoke was so thick, it was hard to breathe (did we really care?). Or the complains from non-smokers when one of us left and carried the fragrance with him throughout the building.
I spent times alone in that room too, thinking about the day's news or some future project. When the weather was nice, I went outside to enjoy the view, but there was something special about smoking in that room. Perhaps it was the knowledge that we were living on borrowed time, that the curse of political correctness would one day come upon us and we'd be forced outside like most of the other smokers in the country.
How could I not enjoy working for a guy who actually let me smoke in a comfy place throughout the day? This, I believe, was another of the many acts of kindness and grace granted to the family of Smith Broadcasting employees.