He Called It Quits

by Fred T. Beeman
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

He Called it Quits

In 1978, my wife and I attended the Star Trek convention at the Regency Hotel in Denver, Colorado. Among the guests in attendance were Bruce Hyde (“Lt. Kevin Riley”), Jonathan Harris (“Dr. Smith” from “Lost in Space”), and George Takei (“Mr. Sulu”).

While in the men’s room at one point during the convention, I was somewhat startled when George Takei entered. I knew he wasn’t coming in to use the lavatory facilities, since he had them in his hotel room. I quickly figured out that he was “passing through” the restroom on his way to the men’s exercise room, located next door.

I casually said, “What’s up, George?”

He smiled and replied, “Two hours of exercise, every day! You never know when I’ll be called upon for a part that requires strenuous physical activity.” Those of us in the men’s room asked if we could follow him into the exercise room to watch him work out, and he said, “Sure! Then I’ll have someone to talk to!” We trailed him into the room and observed him going through his paces.

While he was grunting and straining against the various machines, I pulled out a pack of my cigarettes and politely asked, “Do you mind if I smoke?” (In 1978, one could smoke almost anywhere.)

Mr. Takei stopped his exercises, stared at me for a second (probably anticipating my reaction) and said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” I put my pack of cigarettes away.

For the next two hours, George Takei appeared to speak only to me, asking me questions about my smoking and saying, “You never saw anyone on board the ‘Enterprise’ smoking.” He explained that it wasn’t because smoking was forbidden. It was due to the fact that by the 23rd century, humans will have learned that smoking accomplishes no good and serves no needs.

The “lecture” of TV’s Mr. Sulu weighed heavily on my mind, not because of what was said but because of who said it. For months afterward, I replayed our conversation in my mind and finally came to my senses. Later that year, I began a three-year effort to quit smoking that was ultimately successful.

I saw Mr. Takei again at a 1981 Star Trek convention in Houston, Texas, and was flattered that even though he didn’t remember my name, he DID remember our conversation. I happily informed him that I had just completed my second year without cigarettes. He hugged me and congratulated me in front of a roomful of onlookers that included actor Walter “Chekov” Koenig.

George Takei did what no one else probably could do: he got me to quit smoking. I’ve been free of the habit for almost 21 years. I was just one of his millions of fans, but he cared enough about just one person to go out of his way to try to save a life — my life — and he did.

Originally published as HeroicStories #6 on 14 Dec, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

8 thoughts on “He Called It Quits”

  1. All it takes is one person to say the same thing that you have heard thousands of times “Yes I mind, do not smoke”. I keep saying it to my sister and one of these days she WILL quit!

  2. I smoked for 21 years starting my senior year in college. My boss had quit and when I was trying to bum a cigarette on my way out the door to the airport, he said something nasty — and I thought, “I’ll show him!”
    So when the airline attendant asked, “smoking or non-smoking?” I replied non-smoking! When I exited the airport in 1977 Los Angeles, the smog attacked me and I sniffled all week — and never bought another pack of cigarettes! Thanks to the boss who said something that I wish I could remember!

  3. The email asked me to share this story by using the buttons on the web page.

    I came to the webpage, but I don’t see any buttons for sharing this with anybody.

    • As long as you have Javascript enabled in your browser there will be share buttons along the left. (It appears the site may have been having a problem this morning but they’re displaying for me now…)

  4. I told my mother to quit when I found out her sister, my aunt, died of lung cancer in the middle 80s. At the time she told me, “Don’t talk to your mother like that”. At that point I never mentioned to her about quitting again.

    Flash forward to 2012, during a phone call, my mother appologized to me about the way she answered me when I told her to stop smoking. At the time of the call, she told me that she had just been diagnosed with emphysema. I about fell out of my chair, and I also thanked her for the appology.

    She actually stopped smoking in the middle 90s probably because of my father’s vascular dementia. I believe she stopped because she was afraid that my dad would forget where he put his cigarette. However, she still had at least ten years without smoking, so at least when her emphsema was diagnosed it was not in the terminal stage.

    I hope that anyone who has loved ones take the time to stop smoking. Stopping smoking extends lives and the lives around them.

  5. How wonderful to hear your mom apologized to you for having told her to stop smoking. Your were probably feeling fearful for her life when you said it, as her sister had just died. It took all those years for her to understand how much you cared.

    Oh, for the love….of mother and daughter bonds.

  6. An excellent resource to provide to anyone you care about who WANTS to quit smoking:

    The Easy Way to Quit Smoking by Alan Carr.

    You can get used copies on Amazon. (The reviews are off the charts) Always have one on hand. Just give ’em the book and tell them to KEEP smoking while they read it. It’s the most successful technique I’ve personally witnessed.

  7. Back in 1969 I was newly engaged. Lent was starting an my fiancée concerned that I was smoking more than a pack a day challenged me to quit for the 40 days. It helped in the next 40 days that I was a college student. I chose new places to congregate and study so that I was not triggered by the location to want to smoke. On day 39 she said that if I could quit for 40 days I could quit for 40 years. On our 40th anniversary I jokingly asked if I was released to start smoking. Of course after 53 years of marriage I appreciate her sneaky love.


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