Up In Smoke.

Sometimes if I know it’s going to be a while before the bus arrives I’ll walk along the route. I like the exercise and it’s better than just standing around in one spot. I used to walk toward downtown, facing traffic, but there have been so many changes and stops that have been discontinued even though the bus still passes by them which makes no sense. If the bus still goes by why can’t it stop there, especially since, according to the MTA, you can flag down a bus at any corner? Anyway now I always walk with the traffic. Sometimes I stop at one corner and there’s a guy who occasionally comes and stands at the same corner and smokes while he’s waiting for the bus.

Now I don’t have anything against smokers. I even was one, briefly, back in college, because I hung around with a lot of theater people and there was a saying among them that all actors smoke because it’s the only way they can deal with the tension. I wonder if that’s changed now that so many places are smoke-free, a change that hasn’t bothered me because I was really only a social smoker. One night a friend and I were out of cigarettes and money and decided to go around asking random people for change but set ourselves the arbitrary rule that we wouldn’t accept more than ten cents from any one person. A couple of hours later as we sat on the steps of the student union puffing away we agreed that collecting the money for a pack of smokes had been more fun than the smoking itself, but that’s another story.

Anyway as I was approaching the corner I saw the guy standing there smoking and realized I was downwind of him. Again, no problem with smokers, although congrats to Grace of Ms. Graceful NOT on quitting, especially after her CO2 experience, but I try to avoid the secondhand miasma. So I decided to keep walking to the next stop. As I waited for a light to change I glanced back and noticed the guy was following me, cigarette dropped somewhere on the pavement behind him. He then joined me at the next bus stop.

“Soon as I saw you go by,” he drawled in a voice so husky it could run the Iditarod, “I knew the bus was gonna be late, so I thought I’d walk to the next stop too.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d moved on for the benefit of my heart, not to mention my lungs, but since I was now upwind it didn’t matter. Then, for some reason, he moved around to the other side of me and I heard the snap of his lighter.

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  1. Red

    LOL! I have dear friends who are smokers, but it is not allowed in my house, and I do not want to smell it, either.

    As far as the theatre, in my 20 years in American theatre, the break of smoker vs. non seemed very much like real life. Some do, some don’t. In fact, many of us prefer to protect our voice from the damage of smoke. Of course, a lot of modern theatres mic the actors, so it doesn’t matter as much. Wimps.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s funny but I can count the people I know who smoke–the ones I interact with outside of the internet–on one hand and still have fingers left over. And looking back at my experience I remember there were several theater people who didn’t smoke in spite of the stereotype.
      And I don’t give actors too much grief for using mics. It seems like a lot of theaters do it so they can pack in bigger crowds where no amount of projecting would reach the back row.

  2. grace

    Thank you for links (gotta love free publicity), but don’t credit me on the quitting smoking yet…quit date of august 15th. I haven’t smoked in my car for over a month though(that one was hard) baby steps though. Another confession, please don’t unfriend me, I have purposely lit a cigarette to make someone move away from or stop standing on top of me, in fact it was one of the reasons I didn’t want to quit. I love your coin collecting story. I definitely lol. It reminded me of a time my friends and I wanted to TP an ex’s house, but didn’t want to waste the money on toilet paper. We split into pairs and hit the entire neighborhood claiming to be neighbors who had ran out of toilet paper. By the time we were done, we had collected over 60 rolls.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I can completely understand lighting up just to get someone to move away from you. That’s one of the definite benefits of smoking.
      Collecting TP is so much funnier than collecting coins, although if any houses had gotten rolled that night your neighbors would know exactly who was guilty.

  3. grace

    The guilt part is true, but we went to his neighborhood to collect, so they were kind of accomplices because they provided the tp?…idk that’s how my brain explained it

  4. Ann Koplow

    I have many reactions to this post, Chris. I just spent some time looking for some lyrics you wrote to “Smoke on the Water” in a comment on one of my blog posts, but I can’t find it. I do remember that instead of “A Fire in the Sky” your lyrics were “Comments on the Blog.” I am also including my son’s second “Misheard Lyrics” video from YouTube which he created in 2009 and apparently recently unlisted. I hope all this doesn’t generate too much second hand smoke.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’d forgotten that comment until you mentioned it and now I can’t find it either, which is driving me nuts. And I remember Aaron’s mondegreened version of “Louie, Louie” but somehow I’d missed his “Smoke On The Water”. Now I’m very happy to have seen that one too.


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