Monday, June 2, 2008

Word Fail Me.

I've mentioned that I'm a smoker. I'm not stupid and I know it's not good for me. In addition to having a serious addiction, I also like smoking. Sue me. And you know what else. It makes me a great citizen because they just raised the tax on cigarettes again and by the end of the week, a pack of smokes is gonna be Ten Fucking Dollars in NYC. (And they closed that internet cheap smokes from the Indian Reservation loophole.)

Yeah, fine! I'm a fucking pariah.

So earlier today, I'm walking down the street (smoking a cigarette) and some guy cleaning the windows in front of his Brownstone calls, "Hey, buddy." I make a "Who me?" gesture and say, "Yeah?"

He says, "You're smoking is killing me."

I did fairly well at first. After a moment of "Huhmina huhmina huhmina" I said, "Did you actually just stop me on a public street to tell me that my smoking offends you from 2o' away?"

He said in a very hostile tone, "Yeah! You're smoking is kill-ing me!"

I could have delivered any number of bon mots.

I could have said, "And stopping me so my cigarette is in your vicinity longer is helping you how?"

I could have said in a kind tone, "You're a pathetically sad human being."

I could have offered to stay right there and finish my cigarette right in front of his house.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but "Asshole" was the operative word in the sentence.

Have you ever been so taken aback by what someone said to you that you were totally at a loss for a comeback? And thought up a bunch of them later?


Janiece said...

Why, yes, Nathan, I have.

And in similar circumstances to yours.

Some people are just asshats.

Once you accept that, it's a lot easier to ignore them.

It would of made a lot more sense if he'd said, "your smoking is killing you."

Still offensive, but more appropriate.

Tania said...

People are assholes.

I used to weigh significantly more than I do now. People would make smart ass comments about my size.

But what's even worse - lose a bunch of weight. Everyone feels entitled to comment on your weight loss and wants to know about it. I tell skinny people that have been rude to me that once I stopped having sex the pounds started falling off.

Jim Wright said...

that once I stopped having sex at work the pounds started falling off.

Ahahahaha! And you thought we forgot about that, didn't you Tania?

Wright's first rule, 99% of the people on this planet are idiots. 20' away and the cigarette smoke is killing him? Then the car exhaust ought have him in the ground by the afternoon. And I have to wonder what chemicals he was using to wash the windows, Ammonia perhaps?

But seriously, Nathan, $10 per pack. Holy shit, way back when I used to smoke on a regular basis, ten bucks would buy two cartons at the Navy Exchange.

Ilya said...

Puh-leeze! It's been proven ages ago that second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer almost as well as the actual procedure of lighting up. If I have to inhale your fumes, you are killing me - and apparently you have little qualms about it.

You deserve what you got, Nathan, I say with the utmost affection...

Nathan said...


Sorry, I'm just not buying it. First of all, as I pointed out, his comment is the only thing that caused me to stop in front of his house...therefore increasing his exposure to my utterly offensive behavior. I'm a fast walker and I was actually late getting where I was going, so I was in really high gear. I never came within 20' of the guy, and yeah, his exposure to traffic was getting to him in higher concentrations than my smoke was.

I'm about as polite a smoker as you're likely to come across. If I'm smoking a cigarette, I never approach other people. If I need to speak to them, I'll put out my cigarette first. They're free to approach me if they like, but they can see that I'm smoking so that's their choice.

If I'm at an outdoor cafe (one of the few places you're still allowed to smoke in NY), I'll light up if no one is nearby or if they're obviously smokers. If someone sits at an adjacent table while I'm smoking, I'll take that as confirmation that they've been warned. I also make a point of making sure my pack of cigarettes is clearly visible on the table. Conversely, if I sit at a table next to a party who was there first and no one there is smoking, I won't light up.

Long before smoking was banned in outdoor stadia, I'd leave my seat and go to an uncrowded open area if I wanted a cigarette.

Sorry, I didn't walk up the guy and blow smoke in his face. You can convince me that second hand smoke in high enough concentration is hazardous, but you can't convince me that window washer dude isn't an asshole who should go live in a positive-pressure clean room if he's so concerned about his environment.

And while we're on the subject, do you have any doubt that a putz who feels so entitled to accost people on the street is probably an asshole on any number of subjects?

Hey Lady! ... Yeah, you across the street! Get your fucking baby to shut up. His crying is annoying me!

Hey buster! ... Yeah you three tables away. I can smell the bacon you ordered all the way over here. Bacon is murder!

...said with the utmost affection.

Random Michelle K said...


As an ex-smoker, I do have problems with smoke. But you know what?

I don't go places where people are smoking.

I do get annoyed when people are standing around doorways smoking, because that is something I can't avoid. But if I'm at a bar, then it's my problem, not theirs.

I also think the push to make smoking illegal just about everywhere is bullshit. If someone wants to operate an establishment where you're allowed to smoke, that should be their right.

We're going through something similar here, and I think it's bullshit.

However, Nathan? Dude? Fun or not, you really should quit smoking.

kimby said...

As a fellow smoker, yes I have been in situations like that. I have yet to be able to come up with an appropriate know..something that the asshats IQ would be able to understand.
You were OUTSIDE.
And not near him.
I am similar to you when it comes to being considerate for others...but HELLO....OUTSIDE????????
Our city chose to go smoke free almost a year before our province did (5 years ago now). I can no longer smoke in any public place, bar, Legion, etc....The new legislation is currently in Parlament to make it illegal to smoke in my car because i have children riding in it (for the record, we do not smoke when the children are in the car as a rule). I am waiting for them to make it a crime to smoke in my home, or yard.
they have no problem collecting the SIN tax on tobacco. We have already hit 10 bucks a pack once, and for big name brands we are there again.
Just make the damn things illegal..and get it over with.

Sorry...went on a bit of a rant there.

Random Michelle K said...

Just realized something.

If one lives in a big city, does one really expect high outdoor air quality?

Maybe I'm missing something, but you're not living on a wild prairie or anything, so isn't there, like, traffic and all that other crap polluting the air already?

Are cigarettes supposed to be worse than car exhaust?

Personally, I'd rather walk by a smoker than a frelling bus.

MWT said...

I'm not a big fan of being anywhere in the vicinity of cig smoke (that stuff carries pretty far, even outdoors), but I don't go around yelling at people about it either. I just breathe less until they go away.

The thing that does bother me is when they just throw their butts anywhere. Cig butts are trash too, just like wadded up fast food packaging, and if you wouldn't toss those anywhere, what's so much harder about keeping hold of the cig butts? Would it really be that hard to keep a small plastic bag (or somesuch) to put them in until you reach a trash can? :p

MWT said...

On a completely unrelated note, it might be cheaper (and less hazardous to your lungs) if you look into roll-your-own. The tobacco tends to come without all the toxic additives. I have a friend who swears by that method.

mattw said...

It happens all the time. What may be worse is when I'm at work and I have the snappy/rude/insulting comeback and I have to bite my tongue.

It wouldn't have worked in your situation, but there's always: "Well the jerk store called, and they're running out of you."

Ilya said...


Considerate-of-others smoker that you might be, would you, hypothetically, give me a 20-feet berth if overtaking me, say, on Prospect Park's walking path with your lighted cigarette? Honestly...

I live in comparatively clean-air suburbs, yet time and again, I come to an intersection, and, while waiting for a green light, am joined by a puffer who absentmindedly showers me with fumes. What am I supposed to do to avoid that - run across the street between cars?

Being outdoors, vast distances involved, other harmful substances present... Yeah, yeah, yeah... The bottom line is you cannot help it but be harmful to others with your smoking, and if someone calls you on it, they have a point.

As far as the generalizations at the end of your response to my earlier comment, it is largely impolite to accost strangers regarding the things that annoy you about them (although I am willing to lionize anyone who accosts a loud cell-phone talker on a crowded commuter train). Call people who do that assholes, and I will agree. However, I was not talking about annoyances. I was talking about a real danger to my health, should I find myself downwind of you while you smoke. I find that guy's decision to accost you rather unorthodox, but I don't find it objectionable.

Apologies for the soapbox rant. I'll go and be quiet for a while...

Random Michelle K said...

The problem, Ilya, is that people pick and choose what is and is not unacceptable pollution of the public air.

Smokers are increasingly limited in where they can smoke, yet no one says a word about people who douse themselves in cologne who make it hard for anyone trapped in a room with them to breathe.

No one says anything about people who are obviously ill, who sneeze and cough everywhere, thus spreading their germs not just to those around them, but to anyone who may unsuspectingly follow them.

My health is at a far greater risk from someone who coughs and sneezes and leaves their germs everywhere they go, than I am from passing by a smoker on the street.

Nathan said...


(and I'll start by saying "don't feel picked on; you're just the only dissenting voice so we're piling on).

I'm going to just give up right now and cede the point. Why? Because, as a smoker, I'm obviously EVIL. How do I know? The movies tell me so. No one smokes in movies anymore unless they're the bad guy.

So, you can tax me because I'm evil. You can relegate my activity to the place where the dumpsters are kept. You can tell me that I can't smoke anywhere indoors and then bitch at me because I smoke outdoors.

I'm not even talking about the folks who congregate at the doorway. I think that's a little obnoxious too. But, give me a fucking break. Yell at me because I'm walking down the street? Yell at me at a red light because I'm smoking in my car (without a passenger, much less a minor)? Sorry, but I'm gonna lash out at any asshole who decides they have the right to educate me in a public place.

John the Scientist said...

Ilya, the EPA cooked the books on that study. They changed their statisitcal target midstream (a huge no-no in medical studies) and finally used a 90% confidence interval in a one-tailed test that is just not normal for that kind of statistical research.

See here, here and here:

The EPA report is not valid. It is based on one of the most outrageous and multiple frauds in the history of applied statistics. The EPA undertook the so-called meta-study four years after it had begun formulating its anti-smoking legislation. It left out a major study that produced an adverse result. It changed the criterion for significance during the course of the study (an unforgivable scientific crime) to an unprecedented low of 90% (P<0.1). It ignored all confounding factors. After all that it achieved a paltry relative risk of 1.19, when real science usually insists on at least 3.0 and NEVER less than 2.0.

That guy was exposed to at least several orders of magnitude more PAHs from the diesel trucks on the street than Nathan's cig - why wasn't he yelling at truck drivers? ('Cause they'd beat his silly ass to a pulp, that's why).

I am not a smoker, I detest being even 10 feet downwind of a smoker, but BS is BS.

Random Michelle K said...

used a 90% confidence interval in a one-tailed test

Tell me this wasn't published in a peer-reviewed journal.


Shawn Powers said...

Thank you for being a polite smoker. More than a trait of your smoking habits, it reflects on your personality in general, and I'm not surprised in the least that you go out of your way not to impose on others.

But dude... You should quit. We all kinda like you and stuff.

Ok, that's it. No nagging. :)

Nathan said...

::Internetty Blush::

John the Scientist said...

Michelle - scientists are no more immune from political BS than other people. Yes, it was peer-reviewed with a straight face. And the idiots at the EPA even have a web page up defending themselves.

Ilya said...

John, you gave me too much credit. I first heard of similar studies at least twenty years ago, but I was not actively knowledgeable about this particular one...

Michelle, I agree with your point about coughing and sneezing. To draw a parallel, though, I always imagine myself confronting such person with "Why aren't you staying home and getting better instead of spreading your germs?" Not that I ever do it (I am genetically not built for initiating any sort of squalor), but I would applaud anyone who'd do it in my presence, poor sick schmuck's feelings notwithstanding...