Unmasking the illusion

BuskerYes, I am a smoker.

When I tell people that I smoke, some of them are gracious enough to say that I don’t look and smell like a smoker. That is the kindest thing to say to a smoker. However, there are some that will treat me with complete disdain.

I remember hearing one employee where I work during our lunch break that he has no respect for smokers. I could easily turn around and rebuke him: “who the hell do you think you are!”

Hide. I hide from people during my coffee break. All I need is 15 minutes of alone time. Time to be, time for a quick smoke, time to stay away from people who are holier than thou.

I hide in a wide corridor between buildings, stand close to the wall so that others can walk freely away from the dreaded cigarette smoke.

It’s painful to feel this way.

Last week, I met four kinds of men. Three professionals, one panhandler.

First man: He saw me smoking, he walked away from me to avoid the smoke. I’m glad and relieved.

Second man: He saw me smoking, walked so close to me started hacking. The lane is so wide, what made you come closer to me and act as if you were suffocating? Feeling offended and I coughed back at him. Not a pleasant situation.

Third man: A panhandler came and started begging. Cigarettes, money, food? He came so close to me insistently begging that I have to step back. I said no several times.

Fourth man: He stopped to look at what is happening between me and the panhandler. As the panhandler came closer to me, the fourth man steps forward to us. Instinctively, I stepped forward closer to the fourth man as to walk away from the panhandler.

The panhandler walked away, I find myself standing with the fourth man and said: ‘ It’s hard to find peace and quiet around here. All I want is a quiet moment to smoke.

“I am concerned for you.” said the fourth man.

I did not expect to hear this from him. And he repeated: ” I am concerned for you.”

His face totally reflects that he means what he said. I could see and hear his concern with his body language. He is for real. I could feel it.

“Thank you, thank you very much for your concern.” I said.

He smiled and walked away.

After having three negative incidents with three different people, I am hard pressed for goodness.

This event happened in a span of 5 minutes.

I burst out crying. I cried that there is still one good man. I cried for 10 minutes until my 15-minute coffee break is over.

“One of the first principles of society protects us from pain. Our own pain and the pain of others. Our society, each one of us, we are terribly frightened of pain. So we must do everything to hide from pain and cover it up.” – Jean Vanier

(Photo taken in Havana, Cuba. Notice a panhandler sitting quietly 
in the background. Busking is another form of panhandling.)

8 thoughts on “Unmasking the illusion

  1. It is unfortunate that you had those negative incidents, especially when you were trying to be considerate. Quitting tobacco isn’t easy and there are times in life that the idea of quitting isn’t even an option. It is really important not to judge. I’m glad the 4th man showed up when he did.

    My dad smoked for over 40 years, until the day he had his stroke. (The brain scans showed that the smoking was to blame.) He also did his best to not smoke around his family (his wife and daughter-in-law are allergic to tobacco.) Like you, he is a good person. Good luck. I hope you have some better days — you deserve them!

  2. I’m a smoker, 32 years of it, it’s not until late people have been tsk tsk-ing me (because of many health issues), I worked at a Health store for 6 months, had the top sales in our province,the customers didn’t say anything, I hide my smoking as best as I could, I remember bringing a box of tissue from home and my boss went to use one, “Oh yuck! this stinks of smoke!” my boss said as loud as could be, I had never felt so ashamed of my habit, but yet I still smoke…….. what a dumb habit that leads us to being Criticized !!
    That’s what thick skin is for! lol… We’ll quit when we’ve had enough! I think the 4th guy sounded creepy!

  3. Thanks for sharing. By the way you’ve written the incident, it sounds as if you are still taunted by the event. Take care, there still is some good out there

  4. Sorry to hear about that. Some people are unkind and unmerciful.

    This reminds me when God told Abraham that He will spare to destroy the town if He finds 100 good people there … Abraham knows that there is no good 100 people , so he continued to bargain with God until to one people. God said He will spare the town if He finds one good people.

    That 4th person for me is our salvation. Let’s think of him than of the others .

    Life is still beautiful😊

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. I was just reading Gerald May on addiction and grace this morning (my book assignment)…. and felt a kind of serendipity when I saw your post.  Perhaps God sent you that 4th person to let you know how God is loving you that very moment. 

    Gerald May says:
    “Honesty means acceptance. We must begin by accepting the fact of our addictions. To accept  this is to acknowledge that it really exists. In religious language, this kind of Acceptance is Confession”

  6. I am surprised that you are a smoker, but that doesn’t change what or how I think of you. You are considerate to smoke away from people. I don’t think you need to hide though. Rude people look for people to be rude to.

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