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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2:30AM mating ritual – watery coffee, cheesy omelet, full-bodied drag, are you sober yet, your place or mine – has been replaced by teenagers and young adults who get off on loads of sugar packs and whip cream.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. 


 

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