So I was walking along the other day when it hit me. No, not the realisation that I’m way better looking that George Clooney, in a bald kind of way and no, not the sudden realisation that I had smeared toothpaste across my face. Not this particular day anyway. No it literally hit me. It’s something that I personally hate. I’m talking about cigarette smoke.
Look, I admit I’m a bit of a germophobe. I don’t feel overly comfortable with buffets unless I’m at the very front. Don’t get me started with public places, door handles, coins, lift buttons and so on. If I were to think about that then I’d be confined to the house. Look at the people who you work with and think to yourself, “These are the people I am probably sharing germs with today”. Look at the family you live with and think, “These are the relatives who I love and am pretty comfortable sharing germs with.” But it’s just a part of life. A natural part of existing in a modern society. It’s what society shares with you. So as much as I don’t like to think about it too much, I just accept it and regularly wash my hands.
But smoking is different. I find smoking invasive. You mind your own business when all of a sudden your air is polluted with the sharp smell of cigarette smoke.
This ties in with the UK Government’s recent decision to make it an offence to smoke in a car with a child. This is something I do agree with. I mean, knowing what we know in today’s world, why do some people smoke in front of their children anyway? However, I don’t see how it can be enforced realistically and it still doesn’t stop Mother reading a nice bedtime story to little Kylie whilst having a cigarette on the go. I also want to know if it works both ways. Living in Dudley, I’ve got a good risk of passive smoking from a five year old.
So I’m walking along and then the cigarette smoke hits me. Why do I always end up down-wind from a smoker? It’s nothing personal. It’s just that the by-product of smoking is the uncontrollable blue-grey smoke that drifts and meanders through the air so gracefully and up your nose and into your lungs and onto your skin and clothes making you smell like you’ve been hanging out at the Marlboro testing facility.
So what do I do? Well I can’t cross over, there’s no pavement and because I’m British, I’m far too polite for that anyway. I wouldn’t want to cause offence. If a smoker asks me if I have a lighter, I automatically respond with a no and apologise for it. I have therefore effectively apologised for not smoking to a smoker! What is that all about?
I can’t sprint past them in an over dramatic overtaking manoeuvre because, well, it’s just not the done thing. But I can’t exactly drop to all floors and continue in my journey behind them trying to get under the smoke. Imagine that, walking along, having a smoke and turning around and seeing a bald man walking on all fours like some kind of animal impersonator.
So I have to overtake them in a less dramatic fashion but still with haste. It’s not quite a run but it’s not a walk either. I suppose it’s a bit of a scurry. Yes I scurry past them. As I do so, I see out of the corner of my eye that they have seen me. They crane their neck to the side to look straight at me as I pass but I do not return the look. And whilst this takes place I wonder if they are taking offence at my action. Of course upon reflection, I think F*ck em!
It’s not that I have anything against smokers. They can do what they like. It’s their body and their bank balance. But I don’t like how it affects others. I don’t like how it affects me.
“Aha!” Some of you say. “I have taken the leap towards electronic cigarettes!” I say, well done you but that’s no better as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen your kind, sitting there puffing away on your electronic cigarette or strange pipe contraption in the canteen or in another public place where smoking is banned but still you sit there puffing away with that smug look on your face as if to say, “I’ve found a way to beat the system!” As far as I’m concerned you’re the smoking equivalent of an able-bodied disabled parking badge holder! “I’m not really smoking.” Yes you are. “I’m not breathing out smoke and there’s no passive smoking.” No there isn’t but I think there’s still something not right about those pipe / electronic cigarettes. For one, there’s still a strange smell in the air around them and when I’m eating a lovely chicken salad, I don’t want to call into question whether there’s something not right with the dressing I’m using. But for me what’s disconcerting is that you don’t breath out smoke, you breath out vapours.
I breathe in and breathe out. You breathe in and breathe out and the chances are that some of what I breathe out, you may well breathe in, (Only in close proximity. If you are reading this anywhere other than my spare bedroom right now, you’re safe.) but you don’t really smell anything and you’re oblivious to it. Second hand smoke is horrible. The toxic pollutant has already been into someone else’s lungs and then you end up breathing that in after they’ve expelled it. Ugh! But at least you see it coming. You can smell it. You can therefore avoid it. Duck, dodge, slip, bob and weave to avoid it. Or, simply leave the room. But with those vapours that are breathed out with the fake cigarettes and pipes, it dissipates quickly and then I just get a strange smell and I’m left wondering, am I breathing that in now? Uurgh. And then as a germophobe, I pack up my chicken salad and go and eat it somewhere else. I guess I think too much!
So I just find it a bit invasive and a bit intrusive. I’m glad it’s not allowed in bars or restaurants anymore. But with the smokers lingering outside the doors, I have to hold my breath as I enter and leave the establishment. When you enter, it can sometimes resemble when the doors on Stars In Your Eyes used to slide open to let the contestant walk through the dry ice and reveal that Deborah from Stoke looks nothing like Bonnie Tyler despite the hair do.
But you can’t say anything to a smoker. The argument is always the same. “Well stand somewhere else then! It’s a free country! I can do what I want.” They have a point. I can’t argue with this.
But I can balance the scales. I can adjust the equilibrium of the planet damn it!
I would need to do something that was within my rights to do. Something that was within my freedoms as a British citizen.
It would of course have to have the same implications to the smoker as the smoke has to a non-smoker. It would need to leave a smell, or be a health risk or preferably both.
My first idea is to stand near some smokers and partake in some random Olympic hammer throwing in very, very close, perhaps even too close proximity to the smoker. Standing there minding my own business when all of a sudden out comes the hammer and I start to swing it and spin, spin, spin very quickly before letting it go. Now they may take exception to this. Telling me I could have injured them therefore deeming that very act a health risk. Of course the wild momentum is impossible to control. My response to their disapproval?
“So what if it’s in a bus stop? If you don’t like it, stand somewhere else! It’s a free country!”
My second idea is to position myself in an upwind position of any smokers and to pull out a spray bottle. This spray bottle would contain Birmingham’s finest…. canal water. A sample would find a multitude of wrongness in there along with the dna of several shopping trolleys and a couple of dozen condoms. Not to mention the engine oil, battery acid and white lightening cider! I would spray a fine mist into the air. The gentle breeze would carry it along and it would no doubt come into contact with the smokers. They in turn would breath it in, have it on their skin, their clothes, they would feel dirty and would realise the health risk thanks to the slight burning sensation.
But how would I react to their protests? “So what if it’s in a specific designated area for smokers? If you don’t like it, stand somewhere else! It’s a free country!”
My third is a direct attack. It’s not pleasant and not for the faint hearted. The most difficult bit would be to fight the natural impulse we have as decent human beings to cover our mouths and our noses. Well that and probably running away for survival afterward. I’m talking about sneezing and coughing. Yes sneezing and coughing directly onto a smoker. They’d then be thinking, ‘Am I breathing that in? Is that a health risk to me?’ They too would want to feel the urge to clean themselves. But hey I can’t help it if the wind naturally carries my germs in their direction! Even if I was three inches from their face!
And if they take offence to this “Hobby” that I have?
“So what if I’m trespassing on your property? It’s a free country. I can do what I like. Go and stand somewhere else if you don’t like it!”
I foresee tobacco stained fingers wrapped around my throat. As long as they haven’t touched buttons, coins, hand rails or door handles!