Merritt’s Country Cafe located in Boise, Idaho

Merritt’s Country Cafe and Example of Progressive Change

Merritt’s Country Café, on any given day before the new Idaho smoking came into effect, was a den of smoke.  The attractiveness of Merritt’s were the hours.  A smoker could buy a bottomless cup of coffee and smoke for 24 hours, 7 days a week. You could always spot a first timer because they would come with a half pack of smokes.  The regulars might have a half pack of smokes on the table but definitely kept a carton in the car along with a bottle of zippo fluid. The only thing that could make the smoker slow down might be the apocalypse, oxygen tank switch, death bed or sadly when the smoking laws changed.

Now that smoking laws have come into effect, the rhythm of Merritt’s 2:30AM mating ritual – watery coffee, cheesy omelet, full-bodied drag, are you sober yet, your place or mine – has been replaced by teenagers and young adults who get off on loads of sugar packs and whip cream.  I have graciously accepted these changes because I’m ready to become a 24-hour fresh air breather. 

The one aspect that hasn’t changed at Merritt’s Country Café is the busy State Street four-lane road.  If a person walking or bicycling down State needs some fresh air, I recommend taking a break at Merritt’s. 

It’s criminal that a person has to step into a building with special air filters so that he or she may breathe fresh air, so recently the federal government has threatened to get in bed with the Treasure Valley’s air quality clean up program.  The solutions presented by our local elect, such as reduce driving and mow lawns in the evening, as reported in the Idaho Statesman reminds me of a smoker afraid that lung cancer might get involved in their daily life so the smoker makes an attempt to cut down their dangerous habit by switching from hand rolled Drum cigarettes to Marlboro Reds. 

When it comes down to it corporations and politicians love the money generated by the automobile and drivers love to drive and smokers love nicotine.  One way to dramatically decrease air pollutants would be to stop driving.  This sort of idea is as crazy as telling people to reduce lung cancer they must stop smoking.  I propose a compromise similar to the Idaho smoking laws that will help solve the air quality issue. The local elect must switch their air quality attitude from Marlboro Red cigarettes to Marlboro Ultra Lights.

Think of four lane roads as public buildings and restaurants.  The rule is a person can’t smoke in the restaurant but can smoke in designated outside areas.  An example would be Flying M Coffee House.  A person can’t smoke inside but can smoke on the patio.  Four-lane roads will have two lanes dedicated to cars, one lane dedicated to bicycles, and one lane dedicated to public transit.  

Think of two lane roads as public sidewalks.  Smokers and nonsmokers share the sidewalk.  Two lane roads will be shared by motorized and non-motorized vehicles.  The difference will be the hierarchy.  The bicycle/pedestrian rights will SOCIALLY and lawfully come first.

Think of I-84 as the bar.  The nonsmoker who walks into 10th Street Station or Turners Bar will be taking their lungs into their own hands.  Just as smokers have total smoker freedom in the bar so may the vehicles on the freeway. 

How will the city pay for these changes? One way to help pay for the costs of re-marking the lanes would be to create permanent space for vendors such as produce stands, food carts, and bookmobiles.   The local government would then collect a tax or rent fee on the barricade space.  Another idea – create a special sales tax on bicycles.  Citizens who use a lane need to pay for bicycle related city services.

Because our economy is based on capitalism, the above ideas will not be deemed successful in terms of air quality and health but in terms of air quality and money.  From my simple observations of the Boise smoking scene, the industry stills generates a fare amount of money.  At first, times were difficult for the smoker with the new laws.  Restaurants complained about patrons not being able to take a drag between their poached salmon and crème brulee, but people made do with the changes.  People complained when cigarette prices cost the same as a gallon of fuel but made do by smoking cheaper brands like USA Golds.  I no longer hear the smoker grumble.  The pendulum has swung back into balance.  I would bet there are more tobacco stores, cigar rooms, and hookah bars in Boise since the smoking laws went into effect.  The above observations indicate good news for politicians, corporations, and drivers who are afraid these driving ideas will have negative economic impacts.  Times at first will be a bit of a challenge, like a smoker who had to learn how to put down the cigarette from his left hand and replace it with a sugar packet.

The point being if a Merritt’s Country Cafe smoker can make the Idaho smoking law transition so can a Treasure Valley vehicle addict. 


4 responses to “Merritt’s Country Cafe located in Boise, Idaho

  1. Kind of in-apropos, but I’m drooling a little thinking of the scones at Merritt’s. I’m surprised it’s been taken over by the kids–I used to sober up there frequently, but it’s been quite a few years.

  2. How convenient for you that the pendulum “swinging back into balance” happens to be a wrecking ball smashing the rights of business owners. Why should good people, business owners and smokers, have to submit to the personal preferences of this author? Where does the madness of such a deprivation of human liberty end? Just because such laws may make it may be “nice” for non-smokers does not give one the right to trample on the rights of others. If so many people prefer the smoke free restaurants, why doesn’t someone open their own smoke-free establishment? If people like it so much, such businesses that voluntarily ban smoking should flourish, and both parties would be happy. However, if enough demand does not exist for such establishments, it is the non-smokers who either need to adjust to a little second hand smoke, or stay in their own homes where they can ban smoking to their hearts content, on their own property.

    Smoking bans and “sin-taxes” on cigarettes are so un-American it is hard to believe they are so prevalent. It is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to bans on those omelets and sugar packets mentioned in this article.

    • The article was not so much for or against the existing Idaho smoking laws but how the smoking laws can be used as a template to regulate traffic to lower greenhouse emissions. Luckily we live in a state where laws can be reversed for those of you who like to smoke indoors and eat at the same time. In the mean time Boise has plenty of excellent our door dining that allows for smoking. For those of you who would like more info about business rights and politics check out the Libertarian Party website
      Here is one of my favorite quotes about government.
      Wendell Berry, author of The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture says, “If you’ve got 300 million people, most of whom produce nothing for themselves or for the community and to whom everything has to be brought from somewhere else, then there’s no way you’re going to have limited government, or limited anything. All organizations feed upon the helplessness and ignorance and passivity of the people.”

  3. If that isn’t bad enough when asked who was in charge, Alexa raises her hand. In order to understand all this, we need to go all the way back to the western provinces of India nearly 1000 years ago. The reasons why hookahs are being loved by people are numerous; such as hookah smoking is relatively safer than smoking cigarettes and a hookah can be enjoyed in various flavours.

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