The C-Note Lady
--I figured if I can't do anything about my husband's nasty habit then I must done something to his Camel C-Notes....
I've been collecting Camel C-Notes for the past three months. This little piece of 1.5 x 2.75 inches coupon also called "Camel Cash" and it used to be included with most type of Camel cigarette packages. C-Note comes various type of designs and colors. Some designs were distributed in certain years for special promotions so they are rare and hard to find now. Each of C-Note worths 1 Camel buck and can be used to exchange some company gifts, or even a dozen of cigarettes. Camel distributes special catalog offering smokers to send their collected C-Notes to redeem prizes, from a small lighter to a Jukebox. The tobacco company has used this C-Note campaign for Camel Brand cigarettes in the U.S. for decades.
Unlike most coupons, C-Note doesn't have expiration date. However, the redemption has already expired on March 31, 2007. I was not aware of that until about half year ago, I found my husband's C-Notes spreading all over several of his tool boxes and storage cases, I decided to request a catalog from Camel to redeem some prizes and I found that these glossy and colorful papers are no longer worth anything.
I am not a smoker but my husband is. He is a Camel patron ever since he was in China. My very first time seeing a bunch of colorful Camel C-Notes was in my husband's condo. That time we were just dating for a month. He invited me to the place he lived and showed me his sculpture work. I found these white, blue or green tickets spreading around every corner of his condo. He told me that each piece of C-Note indicates 20 cigarettes from one whole package. I myself am a graphic designer and I have learned how successful the Camel ad campaign does in the commercial art industry. Camel advertising is well-known of using cartoon character (Camel Joe) and colorful graphic illustrations to promote cigarette products. From a designer's point of view it is a very brilliant approach for such a product that endanger people's health. It amazed me seeing how the advertising campaign efficiently applied to an actual customer like my husband. Right at that time he told me he was collecting these for "exchanging a T-shirt". I've roughly counted the C-Note that I can see around his room and there are already more than 200 of pieces in his collection.
After we have been engaged and got married then have children, my husband's Camel C-Note continuously spreading into our living area. He never had his T-shirt(s) redeem due to the catalog was hard to find and always "ran out" when he made a call to request. During these years he has also tried to quit smoking for many times. In the beginning I was really supportive and I have done my best to help my husband being through all kinds of quitting methods. Every time when he happily announced to me that he has already not smoking for how many weeks and days then several days later he went back to smoke, again.
Seeing my husband fail to quit smoking sort of make me feel like catching him cheat. You smoke again? Yap...What are you going to do about it? Hit me? (Yes, I really done that when I caught him smoke again.) I wish I can do something better to help him but is quitting smoking supposed to be his job?
So I gave up. Doesn't mean I don't love him but I just don't feel like to kill myself dealing with this type of issue, period.
O.K. Back to those expired Camel Cash. Eventually I searched through Internet and discovered that C-Notes used to be valuable among Camel patrons and many other cigarette lovers. You can really tell from some old forum posts discussing and inquiring about selling or trading these cartoon design tickets for money, gift cards and goods. I now still found people selling Camel catalog prizes on eBay. C-Notes are used to be one of the bidding items and now they become an extra bonus for the bidder and collectors. I even found some C-Note holders asking if anyone knows Camel will plan to have their C-Note promotion back again soon. There are some smokers still holding their expired C-Notes, desperately hoping and waiting the same old good offers coming back again in the future.
I figured if I can't do anything about my husband's nasty habit then I must done something to his Camel C-Notes, the C-Notes that were supposed to turning into at least a dozen of T-shirts for the past 10 years. I told my husband the idea of making a series of art installation about Camel C-Notes, from an aspect of a designer and a non-smoker's point of view. He gave me all his C-Notes, around total 3,000 of pieces to begin with. 3000 of C-Notes actually don't look much. You can stuff all of them into a standard Zip Lock sandwich bag. However, this bag represents equal amount of 3000 packs, total 60,000 of cigarettes that has burned on this Earth.
In terms of the sizes of C-Notes and the possible result of visual impact, I don't think 3,000 C-Notes are enough for making a strong statement. Therefore, I posted a note on Craigslist asking all C-Note owners to contribute their unwanted C-Notes to support my art project. I paid back every contributors' shipping postage, if they included return address. In the meantime I really didn't have idea what I want to do with those colorful tickets. But soon I received lots of replies and more than 2/3 of them are women. One very nice lady sent me more than 10,000 C-Note and asked me not to pay her back the postage. Having massive amount of C-Notes really inspire me working on large scale pieces. And very luckily I will have my first solo art exhibition in a local museum in March 2009.
Seeing Camel such a successful advertising campaign become history, I guess this must have something to do with current American economy. My husband eventually stop buying Camel for almost a year due to the rise of tobacco tax. He also found the hand-roll tobacco is half price cheaper than the name brand cigarettes so he has switched to that. He told me that hand-roll cigarette would allow him smoke under certain controls because he rolls up his own. This reminds me a classic Chinese joke talking about an opium smoker proudly announced to his friends and family: "Tell you what! I have finally quit smoking opium.... Now I smoke marijuana!"
Anyone wants to do something to your partner's precious C-Note collections? Let me know.
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