Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rant of the day

As of yesterday, smoking is banned in all Virginia restaurants, a law that puts us into cultural alignment with much of the rest of the US. It always amused me to see the shocked reaction of my family, who visit from New York and Florida, to the sight of people smoking in restaurants here in Charlottesville. Most restaurants had already instituted their own smoking bans anyway, but there were a few holdouts.

I'm ambivalent about the ban, actually. I don't smoke and I agree that restaurant employees deserve a healthy work environment as much as anyone, but Jon smokes, as do several of his friends, and when we go out I'm usually relieved if it's to a place that allows smoking because otherwise our evenings out are punctuated by annoying smoking breaks.

I'm sure there are people who can relate to this scenario: you are out with a group of friends and someone suggests going out for a cigarette and suddenly most of your party has left the restaurant, and you are stranded, sometimes alone, but usually with the least congenial member of the group. You sit there pensively peeling the label off your beer bottle, watching your smoking friends laughing it up outside. They're having such a great time that often their cigarettes are long consumed before they bother to come back inside. Oh sure, you can go outside with them, but then your table is abandoned and the waitstaff think you've all gone, or else it's freezing or raining or whatever.

This behavior is RUDE. It's also unchivalrous. I'm especially annoyed that my own husband is one of the worst offenders. With the smoking ban in effect, there will be ever more of us non-smoking wallflowers, while all the real partying will happen outside the bar.

Q: But who even smokes anymore, anyway?
A: Lots of people, believe me.

That said, the smell of cigarette smoke doesn't usually bother me too much, or so I thought. A few weeks ago, I was walking down the street and a woman walking in front of me lit up a cigarette and as the smell of it reached me, I was overcome with rage. It surprised me because I have never reacted this way to smoke before, but I was unhappy about other things and the smoke was the last straw. I wanted to catch up to her and demand that she put her cigarette out. "How dare you," I wanted to say. "How dare you just walk down the street, heedless of the smoke you are blowing back at me?" I didn't confront the woman--I'm not very big on confrontation--but maybe my rage was displaced and the real smoker I wanted to say "How dare you," to is Jon for leaving me socially stranded, again and again.


  1. At seventeen, I actually TOOK UP smoking so that I wouldn't be abandoned by my boyfriend and our friends when we were out. I didn't like the taste or the smell, I didn't want to do it, but I didn't see a way to prevent the social suck that took them out the door. I kept smoking when I realized that workers who smoked got more breaks than those of us without a reason to stand around outside several times a day. I've since quit, but your post resonated!

  2. I have pretty polite, well behaved children, but one thing that my son has done since he was little and still does now that he is 17 is physically hold his nose if someone is smoking nearby. At first I wanted to tell him to stop because it was rude, but then I decided he was just trying not to breathe in their stink, and really they were the rude ones. We were with my 6 year old nephew the other day, and he did the exact same thing when someone lit up.

  3. Oh, and this would be a perfect time for Jon to quit. Just saying.

  4. That would be a sore spot. In our circle the smokers are the minority. But D is constantly kvetching about his one assistant at work who keeps taking smoke breaks. It seems to justify a lot of time NOT working at her desk.

  5. Girlfriend, Jon is leaving you in more ways than one! Smoking will shorten his lifespan. Please consider being a little more upset about that. As a woman whose sister died within 6 weeks of coughing up a little blood and a husband who finally quit during a cancer scare, I'm just sayin'.

  6. Yeah touchy issue - as a former smoker I've been on both sides of the fence, in fact still am. I firmly believe in less govt control and intrusion and feel that businesses should be run however their owners like to do it. If not, well you get abandoned smoker tables while the party goes outside. Especially since smoking and drinking go hand in hand. Having said that, Chantix really does work if he wants to quit one day.

  7. I quit 14 years ago after my non-smoking healthy dad died of a heart attack. My husband didn't quit.
    I make him smoke out on the porch.

    I still kind of miss it, but it bugs me when the public smokers are standing just outside of a place and you have to walk through the smoke to get to your car.