guy upstairs is
smoking this morning: I can smell it, even with both nostrils closed.
not talking about Upstairs
-- he of the infamous squeaky broken closet door and midnight
clog-dancing parties -- but the guy who lives a couple of doors down
from Upstairs Neighbor Guy. David and I call him The Old
Hippie Dude: he looks like Papa John
Phillips, during the height of his romance with the freebase pipe.
Every morning and every evening, The Old Hippie Dude leans over the
balcony, in front of his apartment, and sucks down one Camel Non-Filter
after another. We see him standing up there when we're leaving for work
in the mornings, and then again in the evenings when we're carrying our
groceries in from the parking lot. When the conditions are right --
when the skies are clear, when the wind is blowing from the east, when
we've got all of our doors and windows cracked open -- the fumes
from his cigarette come wafting over the railing and into our
downstairs apartment, like exhaust from a flatulent Buick.
the conditions don't even have to be 'right.'
morning, for instance. Even though I've got everything shut tighter
than a drum -- my doors, my windows, my curtains, my sinuses -- I can
smell it. I don't even have to look outside to know that The Old Hippie
Dude is standing up there above me, right this very minute ... one hand
dangling over the railing, a burning cigarette clamped between his bony
fingers. The smell is seeping through the double-paned glass next to
where I sit typing, even with the window closed and locked and the
curtains drawn tight.
this week, somebody asked me to name my #1 pet peeve. I ticked down the
usual list in my head -- big dogs, small children, cell phones in the
bathroom, cucumbers in the House Salad -- but eventually I had to go
with my initial gut response. Cigarette
smoke, is what I ended up
writing. I hate it more than
And it's a fact: I hate cigarettes more than dogs and cell phones and
cucumbers put together. They say there's nobody more obnoxious than a
reformed smoker, and I suppose I'm living proof of that. I'm not sure
how it happened, exactly. When I was a smoker, I hated being preached
at by people who didn't smoke. (Or -- even worse -- by people who used
to smoke but quit.) I swore that when I eventually kicked the habit --
for me, it was always 'when,' not 'if' -- I would never allow myself to
become so self-righteous and annoying. And yet, the more time that
separates me from that last Salem Slim Light, six years ago this
summer, the more intolerant I seem to become.
public, I've tried to be at least marginally polite, especially when
I'm in the company of friends and family who smoke. (Or when I'm
tiptoeing around the issue here on *FootNotes.*) There are a lot of
very nice people who I love and admire and correspond with regularly --
a lot of very nice people who read my Internet journal -- even a few
very nice people to whom I've given birth [ahem]
or otherwise share DNA [ahem]
-- who currently find themselves in the insidious grip of nicotine
addiction. I've tried to be very careful not to offend them with a lot
of overt anti-smoking rhetoric and proselytizing. It's
not the person
I disapprove of, has been my
subliminal message, all along. It's
not much in the mood to be subliminal.
lovely man who used to be an important part of my life died quietly in
his sleep, yesterday morning, after a grueling five-year battle with
lung cancer. Cigarettes are what killed him. He'd managed to quit, in
recent years, but by then it was too late. The family -- and the world
-- is diminished by his loss.
so are my reserves
not about to run outside and point a garden hose at The Old Hippie
Dude, ordering him to put out his cigarette or else. That's never going
to be my style. Plus it would mean getting dressed this morning
and basically, I plan to spend this entire day in my pajamas. And I'm
probably not ever going to turn *FootNotes* into my personal
anti-smoking platform: I would lose at least three or four very
important readers in TicTac, if I were to ever go that route. But I am
likely to be slightly less 'sensitive' and 'subliminal' and 'nice'
about the subject, from here on out.
I am definitely
going to move away from this goddamn WINDOW
for the rest of the day.
to throw a rock?