August 16, 2008

There went my dinner…up in smoke.

Posted in Things That Tick Me Off tagged , , , , , , at 2:59 am by junecleaverwouldbeshocked

It was 5:00. We were hungry. What to eat? Nothing in the kitchen looked good…and the thought of actually cooking something didn’t sound great either. Then, I had a brilliant idea – a pizza place in the next town where my family went at least once a week for the duration of my childhood, but that my husband and children had never visited. So we jumped in the van, and we were off.

Everything about the place was the same – the big, medieval style handle on the door, the small-ish tables and rickety wooden chairs, the handpainted coats of arms decorating the walls, the jukebox, the penny gumball machine by the door. Even the smell of the place was exactly the same as it was twenty years ago – I’ve never encounted another pizza that smells quite like theirs. Two of the people behind the counter were familiar faces from my childhood, although a bit older now. I happily placed our order, introduced my old friends to my husband and children, and headed for “our” table in the far corner. We settled down with our drinks, and prepared to have a nice meal.

And then I choked. And gagged. And nearly heaved. A quick glance around the small-ish dining area brought back to me the one memory that had obviously been suppressed: this restaurant still allows smoking. And a large table behind us was taking full advantage of the fact, with three patrons happily puffing away. Next to them, another table of smokers. And across the room, still more.

Now, I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an actual allergy to cigarette smoke, but if there is, I have one. My throat closes right up at the smell of the stuff – I can’t breathe, I can’t talk, I feel sick. If I hang around it for long enough, I actually become sick. But even worse than my own physiological symptoms is the immediate rage I now feel when cornered by secondhand cigarette smoke – how DARE they smoke on my children?! I snatched Boogie out of her high chair and took my children outside for a walk while we waited for our food. After several minutes, we ventured back in to find things not much better. And although it saddened me immensely to do it, I finally requested our meal to go instead.

It turned out okay in the end. We drove to a nearby park – that Princess loves, and that we don’t get to visit often enough – and ate under the picnic shelter, then played on the playground. She loved it. But I’m still irritated that a few smokers ruined my plan for dinner. Ruined my reminiscing.

I know that we should hate the sin and love the sinner, but it’s darned hard for me when it comes to smoking. Smokers are, in my experience, such a self-righteous bunch. “I have the RIGHT to smoke”, etc. Funny, I think that humans should have the right to BREATHE. Especially innocent children. I’ve been around for long enough now that I’m sure there’s some secondhand crap cluttering my lungs already – and really, once you have children, your own life isn’t *quite* as important as before anyway. But my babies’ lungs are pink and spotless, and goshdarnit I intend for them to stay that way for as long as possible.

Do smokers even know how disgusting they are because of their habit? Do they realize how ridiculous they look with a cloud of smoke following them everywhere they go? Do they know that people notice their yellow teeth and hands and that their breath could puke a dog on a gut wagon? Does it really not bother them that people are constantly having to move away from them? I mean, it’s like self-induced body odor. I just don’t understand.

And I would love to know what chemical in cancer sticks makes them stop caring about social niceties, such as keeping their filth to themselves. Even those with language that would make a sailor blush with shame will very often refrain in mixed company. But not smokers. They feel entitled, somehow, to spread it around.

My husband, who loves listening to talk radio, told me on the way home that Neal Boortz loves to rant about smokers, calling them “filthy drug addicts” and smoking “an act of self-hatred”.  I couldn’t agree more. I understand that it’s a habit, and that it’s hard to quit – but nothing worthwhile in this life comes easily. And who wouldn’t want just to be healthy again, to extend their life by a few years – and to stop being gross and irritating as well? Maybe I’ll never understand. Certainly I’ll always have to avoid them. And this probably won’t be my last rant about them. You’ve been warned…