Thursday, March 08, 2007

Smokin' In the Boys Room

Today is an odd day at work. Most of the kids are either playing in a basketball game at another school, or were allowed to come along and watch. The handful of students left in the school are the ones who were not allowed to go, mostly because of bad behavior.

So while there are very few students, the ones left are the ones who usually give us the most trouble, so it's not much of a break really. And for some reason, maybe resentment over not being allowed to go to the game, they're especially squirrelly.

Just a while ago, on the way up from lunch, I ran into the boys' washroom, rather than the teacher's washroom, just because it was on my way. I noticed a smell when I walked in-- someone had been smoking a cigarette.

Our students smoke. I would guess that of the 120 students we have enrolled, you could count the non-smokers on one hand. What's unusual about this is that it contrasts so starkly to the population at large. People don't smoke as much, and when they do, it's not indoors, increasingly.

I can remember as a kid people smoking all around me. In stores, in elevators. Someone in your car would think nothing of lighting up without asking. People smoked on airplanes, trains and Greyhound buses. At my high school, there was an unofficial "smoking" washroom.

I remember my parents meeting with some guy-- I don't know if it was an insurance or real estate guy. He casually sat and smoked a cigarette as he talked to them. At some point, he accidentally set the cigarette down on my hand and burned it. I still have the scar on my first knuckle of my right pinky finger from the burn. I'm guessing my parents didn't buy whatever he was selling.

Now, almost everywhere is a non-smoking area. Stores, elevators, buses, planes. Nobody would think about lighting a cigarette in your car without asking. Even restaurants and bars-- more and more of them are non-smoking. The restaurant I work at has gone completely non-smoking, except on their patio in the summer.

I am not a fanatical anti-smoker. I think it's an unhealthy-- and increasingly expensive-- habit, but I still think it's a personal choice. It's strange to me, how this habit, ingrained into our culture, has become increasingly marginalized. It's odd, to me, even as a non-smoker, that the familiar old smell of a cigarette has become a rarity.

12 comments:

Natalie said...

Even as an occasional smoker (I know I know it's really stupid and gross) I really notice when someone or something smells like smoke. I take prode in tryin gto eliminate that smell from my lie as much as possible and people never assume I am a smoker. Yesterday, while on the train, a man sat down that literally smelled as if he had bathed in an ashtray. It really bothered me.

Chris said...

We have these old Super-8 movies from when I was young that show both my parents smoking. It is shocking to watch them now since they both quit when I was about five.

Skylers Dad said...

I grew up a non-smoker because I couldn't stand the smell. I still remember long car rides with both parents chain smoking and me pleading for them to roll the windows down.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Cigarettes are a precious commodity in the Michigan prison system. An inmate will do just about anything for a pack of squares.

lulu said...

I quit smoking over a year ago and I still miss it, however, I do not miss smelling like smoke. WHen I come home from a bar that allows smoking, the first thing I have to do is wash my hair; the idea of going to bed with smelly, smoky hair is disgusting now.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I can't think of anything that stinks worse than cigarette smoke. You can smell it on people long after they have finished their smoke. And that's the harmless part of it.

We are almost completely nonsmoking in our city, including many outdoor areas. The only downside I see is that when smokers go for a smoke break at work, they have to leave the campus. They are generally gone for a half hour or more.

Johnny Yen said...

Natalie-
I was reading an article in the New York Times about the smoking ban in New York-- even smokers like it, despite having to step outside, because even they don't like their clothes smelling like smoke.

Chris-
My father quit smoking when I was born (I'm a first-born) but I remember him smoking cigars when I was very young, though he denies it.

Skyler's Dad-
You'd have thought they'd get the message.

There's nothing worse than the smell of old, old butts in a car ashtray.

JR-
Unfortunately, a lot of my students have had experiences with the Illinois correctional system, and I suspect that contributes to their high smoking rate.

I've read that a lot of prisons are doing away with cigarettes for various reasons

Lu-
Glad you quit!

Barbara-
When I worked for Platinum, a long-gone software company, smoking was not allowed anywhere in the building or on the grounds. People would use their lunch break to drive to a near-by forest preserve and smoke in their car. What a powerful addiction.

deadspot said...

"There's nothing worse than the smell of old, old butts in a car ashtray."

The smell of old, old butts in polyester stretch pants?

kim said...

I remember being a little kid flying in coach, and we would sit in the back of the plane with all of the smokers so my mom could smoke. That was worse than any car ride. One time I got to ride on a double decker 747. . .that was cool, I avoided the smoke, and mom got a martini.

busterp said...

Quite interesting. I still smoke but now I'm really self conscious where I do it. I remember when you could smoke anywhere, anytime. As mentioned, elevators, and also buses, trains, other people's houses, work, next to someone at a sporting event (inside or outside) and even at some movies.

Watch some old B/W movies or older TV shows. Even the Dr's were smoking right out of the operating room.

Anon. Blogger said...

My comment is late to the table, but I love to hear someone else describe the change in our society!!

My mom, a lifelong smoker and someone that died as a result, quit when she realized that she was on a fringe that she wasn't so happy to be in. The way she quit is something I must blog about, actually!

Anyway, I remember BEGGING for a small crack in the window so that the smoke would go out of the car!!!

Now my kids have their own rear seat air control and a DVD payer with remote!!!

Isn't that funny????

Johnny Yen said...

Deadspot-
You always have to take it just one step into bad taste, don't you?

Kim-
Was it the one with the piano lounge? That would have been cool!

Busterp-
I remember going to a Cubs game with a few friends, right at the end of high school, in May of 1979. This was not the Cubs' heyday, and even on a Sunday, it was very sparsely attended. My friends were smoking, um, a little more than cigarettes...Now you can't smoke a cigarette there.

At the health service at my school, Eastern Illnois University, they had retired doctors who worked part time. I remember the guy I usually saw, Dr. Steward. He was in his mid-seventies, and he smoked away while examining me. I figured if the smokes hadn't killed him by then, he should just enjoy them.

Ah, the old movies-- everybody had a decanter of whiskey on his desk, and a wooden box full of cigarettes.

Anon. Blogger-
My father quit when I was born. My wife tells me that her mother quit right around when my stepdaughter was born. My wife went with her to the appointment, where the doctor told her she'd die soon if she didn't quit-- he was blunt. She quit immediately, but has COPD, and has a lot of trouble getting around because of it.

We had a family friend die of lung cancer due to smoking when he was in his thirties. It was awful to watch, and it was so sad talking to his kids about it. It definitely did not make me want to smoke.