I quit smoking many years ago but I still think about it almost every day. Sometimes I wonder if other addictions work the same way. Would I have missed them just as much?
What, for instance, if I’d been a knitter and quit that instead? Would I still crave plains and purls half the time? Maybe so. Knitting is almost as silly as smoking is and only slightly less harmful. You don’t get to put things into your mouth but it’s almost like smoking in many other ways. It’s difficult in the beginning but once you’re a seasoned knitter you don’t have to think about it. Knitting annoys other people, just like smoking. It involves needles and is addictive. It’s dangerous, too — you end up with a jersey if you don’t pace yourself.
What would the world be like if knitting replaced smoking?
Knitting is banned from the workplace and groups of wind-blown knitters hang around near the entrances of office blocks. Most other buildings have designated knitting areas. Some malls are totally knit-free. Restaurants have knitting sections with sliding doors to close them off, just in case. There are knitting bars, but even they have knitting sections. There are no-knitting signs everywhere, some with cutesy sub-texts like UNLESS YOU’RE A SHEEP or WE’D RATHER FREEZE TO DEATH. You’re not allowed to knit on planes and the lavatories have knitting detectors. Knitting while driving is against the law everywhere but routinely done in Russia. Most European countries prohibit knitting near children. In prisons the world over, inmates have to make do without needles and knit with their fingers. In some movies, sex scenes are followed by satisfied knitting. Skeins of yarn and packets of needles are adorned with pictures of calloused fingers and cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Pharmacies stock woollen patches for those who are trying to stop. The book Knitters & Quitters sells millions of copies and helps many to freedom.
There are brand wars and devoted factions of knitters. Camel knitters use tough yarn and wooden needles. They don’t give a shit about other knitters. The Marlboro Man stares out across the prairie as he knits a saddle blanket. Lucky Strike knitters scoff at those who knit Dunhill. Everyone scoffs at knitters who use e-needles. No real knitter understands how one can be a social knitter. Ex-knitters now and then hang out with knitters, some for a dose of second-hand knitting and others to boast that they never looked back once they dropped their last stitch.
There are support groups for ex-knitters too. They meet at the church and they have an urn with tea and plates of finger food, but no toothpicks.
“My name is Eddie,” poor Eddie says, “and I’m a knitter.”
“Hi Eddie,” the group chimes.
Eddie relates how knitting almost ruined his life. While the group nods gravely he tells them how he never knitted a stitch until he met his wife. She knitted, and soon he started to knit too. It wasn’t until he became a chain knitter and got passed over for a promotion that he realised he’d have to stop. It was a very difficult time.
“Now she’s left me—” he falters.
The leader of the group sits next to Eddie. His name is Jeff.
“And how does that make you feel?” he drones.
“—for a knitter!” Eddie continues.
Jeff lays a heavy hand on Eddie’s shoulder and puts on his caring expression. The others are quiet as they wonder whether Eddie might relapse into knitting because of this. Once a knitter, they think, always a knitter.
Eddie is absent the following few weeks. He returns, sad-faced, and admits that he merely cast on a stitch at a party and was a goner.
“Before I knew it,” he mumbles, “I had two jerseys and a beanie.”