Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stop smelling like smoke.

My husband is a smoker, and I love my husband. He has tried to quit umpteen thousand times in just the few years that we've been married, and I've seen him really, truly struggle. And, full disclosure: In my younger days, I was a social-smoking kind of girl.

So to a degree, I understand -- or used to understand -- the allure of a freshly lit cigarette; it was something to focus on, to hide behind. I was never addicted, but that doesn't mean I'm somehow better than people who are.

Which brings me to my rant. If I smelled like cow poop or nail-polish remover or ether -- not just smelled like it slightly, but smelled as though I'd been rolling in it, rubbing it into my scalp and massaging it under my cuticles -- I would expect someone to bring it to my attention and perhaps ask me to improve my personal hygiene. So why is smelling of smoke -- no, reeking of it -- absolutely OK?

I love to ride the bus to and from work. I can't do it every day because sometimes I have to go straight from the office to after-work commitments, but on days I'm able to ride, it gives my day an extra lift. Cheesy as it sounds, there's something about knowing I'm saving money and doing the right thing for the environment that puts a little spring in my step. I climb on and relax for half an hour, often reading or playing Words with Friends as I travel from park-and-ride to office and back again.

I'd been riding a certain route for several months when it occurred to me that another park-and-ride was closer to my house; in addition, it allowed me to travel east -- the direction of my office -- instead of west, which takes me out of my way. So, armed with a route map and a smile, I drove to the new park-and-ride a week or so ago, climbed aboard the waiting vehicle and settled in for a relaxing trip to work.

But it wasn't relaxing; unbeknownst to me, I had chosen what appeared to be a smokers' bus. Passengers weren't smoking, obviously, but they smelled as if they had been enjoying an unfiltered Camel in a very small, closed bathroom, then stubbing it out just as they hit the bus steps.

The riders were perfectly nice. They smiled. They chatted amiably. But the staleness made my stomach turn, and I actually smelled of smoke myself, as a co-worker told me, when I arrived at my office. Because of the aroma issue, I've had to make the decision to return to the less convenient route. And that irritates me.

This isn't just a bus issue by any means; one of the guys at my bank reeks of smoke, as do a couple of servers at the restaurant Kevin and I like to frequent. A hairdresser who was a heavy smoker used to cut my hair years ago. I've smelled smoke on physicians and nurses and ultrasound technicians and cable-TV repair folks, and the few times we've been to a casino, I've headed straight to the shower as soon as I've gotten home.

So I don't really enjoy smelling smoke in any venue, but there's something about the odor when I'm moving that turns me more than a little bit green. Yes, it's absolutely a person's right to smoke. But isn't it my right not to have to smell it?

Kevin is a considerate smoker. He smokes outside and does a good job of airing out before he comes back in. Do I smell smoke on his clothes and in his hair? Occasionally, and I'll often say "You reek" or something similarly adorable to drive him to the Febreze. I'm not about to tell total strangers they reek, so what's the answer?

There isn't one. This morning, the bus driver commiserated with me; he doesn't like the smell, either, but it's not as though he can ask his riders to change clothes before they hit the steps. Thankfully, there are other buses to ride; I also can choose to change bank branches or not sit in the sections of waiters who historically have smelled like tobacco.

I guess I just want people to know this: If you smoke, you smell. You may not think you do, but you do. So if you're going to be around other people in an enclosed space, please consider not lighting up until you're done being around them. If you agree to that, I promise I won't roll around in garlic or mothballs or paint thinner until we've parted ways.

(Disclaimer: If you're thinking of riding the bus, don't let this post dissuade you. I'm talking ONE bus in a fleet of hundreds. Statistically, chances are that if you rely on DART to get you where you want to go, you'll arrive at your destination smelling like a daisy.)

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