You know those people in your office who are always ducking out for cigarettes in groups? They're just shooting the shit, right? Talking about inconsequential things? Wrong. They're actually advancing their careers, while you sit inside working like a chump.

This is what cultural gadabout Joel Stein is writing about today, anyway. Sure Stein might just be riffing on a Friends episode from like ten years ago (Rachel smokes to get in with her boss at Ralph Lauren — it was later copied by a How I Met Your Mother episode, which is actually just a wholesale copy of Friends), but there is absolutely truth to the notion. Stein writes about one office smoker:

...smoking breaks allow him to meet people who aren't on his team, that they encourage cross-departmental collaboration that wouldn't otherwise occur, and give him time to brainstorm work ideas. Smoking, the way Akkammadam sees it, is a lot like a really cheap off-site meeting.

Sure while the actual act of it is hideously bad for you, like the kids outside college dorms who all seemed to befriend each other just by virtue of smoking cigarettes (cough, cough), there is a certain shared kinship among the dwindling numbers of office smokers ("dwindling" only if you don't work at New York media companies). And while conversation is often just light and silly, sometimes actual work gets done, and non-smokers miss out. It is possibly the only good thing about the affliction. Next to, you know, smokers just being cool kids by nature. Cool kids with cool coughs.

How about you? Are you a smoker in the office? Has it ever felt like it's helped nudge your career along, or at least helped form certain important alliances? Or is it just gross and sad?