November 17, 2011, is the Great American Smokeout when folks in the USA are encouraged to end their consumption of tobacco. I’m all in favor. I find myself increasingly sensitive to cigarette smoke; if my eyesight and hearing have diminished over time, my olfactory sense has not. In fact, it’s arguably stronger.
As I’ve noted, my father was a cigarette smoker when I was a child, and in those days, he could send me or my younger sisters to the corner store to buy him a pack of Winstons. His smoking was a source of some irritable conversations between us.
At college, I have a clear recollection during my freshman year in college, back in 1972, of going into the Faculty Tower to take the elevator to the 9th floor. Some guy I did not know was going to take his lit cigarette into the conveyance. I said, “Please don’t bring that thing in here.” He snapped, “Why? You have asthma?” “Yes,” I lied. And he then complied!
Non-smokers have come a long way since the days when I had to prevaricate in order to breathe cleanly. Airplanes used to have smoking and non-smoking sections. I remember sitting in row 22, the last non-smoking row. Wouldn’t you know that the smoke did not have the courtesy to go back from row 23, but instead wafted forward?
I still remember the VFW hall where a wedding reception was held and the smoke was so thick that I spent more time outside than in. Or going to a bar called Pauly’s in Albany to hear a band, but ended listening to them from the street; Pauly’s is reopening, I hear, and if I get a chance to see musicians, I believe I’ll be able to do so from inside the establishment.
Just last month, I was on a bus. This guy stood in the entryway of the bus, sucking in as many drags as he could before entering. As he walked down the bus aisle, people said, out loud, “Boy, something really stinks in here,” and the like. Not just one person but perhaps a half dozen. I agreed with their assessment, though not so much with their tactic.