Tag Archives: Cigarettes

Vacation Or Die!

by Richard

The second-worst week of any working year is the week just before you leave on vacation. Of course, the worst week of any working year is the week right after you return from vacation.

Ah, dudes. But those actual vacation days. Those are some good days, indeed.

And, it turns out, they just might be saving your life. In a column, Dan Obeidallah asks if you wanted  to have that heart attack. And, if you didn’t, why didn’t you take the vacation days that could have helped stave it off?

Here’s the deal. Studies have shown that not taking vacations is linked to health problems. And if people skip vacations, there’s a chance that they may die younger than those who don’t.

I think employers should be required to post warning labels in the workplace similar to those on cigarettes packs. I’d love to see a big sign in the break room that reads: “WARNING: Working too many weeks without a vacation is going to kill you. Seriously, you are going to die from it.”

One study found that men at high risk for coronary heart disease, and who failed to take annual vacations, were 32% more susceptible to dying from a heart attack.

Another study compared women who vacationed at least twice a year to those who took one every six years or less. Astoundingly, the women who did not vacation annually were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack.

All of which is too bad for a lot of Americans. In this country, we’re practically obsessed with the idea of proving our toughness, our fitness through work, and one of the ways we do that, is to not take vacation or sick days. I mean, I’ve heard some dudes boast about not having taken a vacation day in years.

I just plain don’t understand dudes like that. Vacations are something you earn by working hard during the year. They allow you to take a little time, stop stressing over stuff that is, in the long run, pretty unimportant. If you work at it, you can even get some perspective, and that never hurts.

The average American uses only 12 of her 14 vacation days each year. In Europe, that average is closer to 20. It’s not even a question to ask which economic entity has a higher life expectancy. Europe of course.

If saving your life isn’t enough of a reason to take a few vacations, here is another: People who take annual vacations are more productive.

A 2010 study found that 35% of Americans feel better about their job and are more productive after a vacation. Vacations have been found to help us recharge — we sleep better during them and for a period of time afterwards. And our brain responses become quicker after vacations.

So what’s the point of all this? Simply to make sure you think about taking the vacation days you’ve earned. Especially considering it’s summer and your little dude is not in school, which makes this the perfect time to take a few days and see things from the viewpoint of a younger dude for once in a while.

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Man On Fire

by Richard

So, there we were, She Who Couldn’t Believe Her Eyes and I, on a USAirways flight from Charlotte to Miami, waiting on the ground at the Florida airport while air marshalls and sheriff’s deputies congregated outside the plane to arrest a drunk Italian for smoking during the flight.

For starters, let’s think about that whole smoking thing. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that there were actually smoking sections on airplanes.

They seriously thought that by segregating people by rows — inside a closed capsule full of recycled air, mind you — they could actually segregate the smoke from the non-smokers. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this, but I still have bad memories of staggering, coughing off of planes and having the smell of cigarettes stink to my clothes until I finally got them washed. It was, really, that bad. And even worse on international flights where the smoking just dragged on and on and on. Not even the free booze could compensate for that.

Although, you know, I did try. Passing out was a somewhat viable option. But that’s another story.

While I am an adamant believer that if someone wants to damage themselves they’ve got a perfect right to do it, I also believe that they don’t have the right to damage others at the same time. So, somke ’em if you got ’em, but not anywhere around non-smokers. Out into the rain for you, smokey.

Still, the change to a totally non-smoking air flight came and went and has not become the norm. When I mentioned the whole smoking section to my three young dudes, they looked at me like I was crazy and making things up again.

Which makes the fact that this Italian dude decided to smoke in the bathroom all that much more . . . odd. We, the other passengers near the back of the plane, were staring at each other in disbelief. I’d never seen something like this.

When we told our story to our friends, Docmo and Goliath, they said they’d also had something similar happen. During take off a while back the dude sitting next to them lit up, took a couple of puffs (directing the smoke down to the floor) and then doused the cigarette in a bottle of orange juice. Then he tried to act cool, like he’d done nothing.

When the flight attendants came around, though, it was instant rat-fink city, they said. Every person within about five rows just pointed the dude right out.

So, the lesson here is don’t be a drunk Italian with a nicotine jones on an airplane flight. No, wait. That’s not it. It’s don’t smoke and stay in school. No, closer though. Ah, right. Don’t smoke on airplanes. It’ll just annoy everyone and get you an impromptu proctological exam by the local sheriff’s office when you land.

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Born To Be Wild

I have always wanted to jump out of an airplane. And dive off a bridge with only a bungee attached to my leg to keep me from splatting on the ground. And you know what? I don’t think I’m alone in this. But it’s not my fault. I’m blaming my parents. See, a recent study has found that sensation (i.e. thrill) seekers react differently to scenes of adrenalizing behavior (such as jumping out of an airplane, base jumping or similar stuff) than do people who are more likely to be homebodies.

The deal is this: the scientists in charge of the study got a group of sensation seekers and a group of folks who tried to avoid risky behavior. Then they showed the subjects a bunch of photographs of various risk-taking behaviors while subjecting the folks in the study to a functional Magnetic Resonance Image procedure. The photos ranged from quite mundane scenes to extremely erotic or violent pictures.

“The results, described in Psychological Science, reveal some very interesting differences between high sensation seekers and low sensation seekers. The brain images showed that when high sensation seekers viewed the arousing photographs, there was increased activity in the brain region known as the insula. Previous research has shown that the insula is active during addictive behaviors, such as craving cigarettes. However, when low sensation seekers looked at arousing photographs, there was increased activity in the frontal cortex area of the brain. The researchers note that this was an interesting finding because that region is important for controlling emotions. The results show that high sensation seekers respond very strongly to arousing cues, but have less activity in brain areas associated with emotional regulation.”

All of which means, because I’ve never actually jumped out of a plane or thrown myself off a bridge, I think I’m probably someone who’s frontal lobe would be activated when viewing those pictures. Of course, that’s not to say I’ve not done my share of risky behavior. I mean, I and a few friends used to make a habit of driving a half hour from campus and jumping off a cliff into an old quarry filled with murky water. It took us several beers and a lot of false starts to make that first jump, but after that it was milk. Run, jump, fall, swim, climb and do it all over again.

Hmm. Maybe that frontal lobe hadn’t matured as of then. I’m going to go with a slight, albeit frequent, lapse of judgement. Wonder if I’ve grown out of it yet?

— Richard

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