Yes, 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.)