A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
I am not a smoker. I can’t really understand why anyone over the age of 22 with a developed sense of personal mortality bothers, really. No, I’m not one of those people that dissolves into ostentatious coughing fits while others are smoking nearby, and I can continue a conversation when a companion lights up a cigarette without wrinkling my nose. But suffice to say, I’m not a big fan.
So it is with absolutely no unfair bias that I say: a public smoking ban? Seriously? Bloomberg…ooh, shoot, did you not get the memo? We’re against fascism here. Geez, how embarrassing.
The law, which was signed in February and goes into effect in May, will ban smoking in parks, on beaches, and in a variety of other public spaces, including Times Square, which has now officially been purchased by the Disney company.
Here’s how I see it: I have a very loud voice. Also, I enjoy talking on my cell phone a great deal, as previously discussed. Now, I realize that the sound of me chatting away while sitting on a park bench could be less than pleasant for a fellow sitter. Unless someone walks up to me and directly asks me to kindly shut up, I doubt I will. I know I’m in plentiful company here.
So, how is this so different from someone smoking in my vicinity? Yes, I find it annoying. Yes, it pollutes my space. But also, and this is the important part, WE’RE OUTSIDE. In public. There are other people! Lots of them! And inconvenient though it may be, they do not live their lives anticipating the preferences of total strangers who happen to share these public, outdoor spaces. If you don’t like them, you’re going to have to stay home. It doesn’t have to be so bad, though. They have this thing called the Internet now, and I hear it has been a real boon to solitary types. Just Google “Second Life,” and you’ll be fine.
Maybe a woman sitting with her dog is bothersome to someone with an allergy nearby. Maybe a crying baby on the beach is enough to make the lady on the neighboring blanket go insane. Maybe that fat guy in a speedo making out with his girlfriend makes you want to wretch as you eat your Chipwich.
Perhaps…tough luck? Yes.
All that being said, we don’t have to be total cretins. I try not to yammer away too obnoxiously if I’m stationary and within close range of other people. And if someone were to come up to me politely and ask me to keep my voice down, I would do it. Similarly, if I were to go up to a smoker and ask her to puff in a direction other than my face, I’m guessing she’d oblige. Or maybe she’d argue with me, in which case I’d move because I’d realize she’s a belligerent nitwit.
The point is, we all do things irritate one another. And aside from attempting to maintain a baseline level of mutual respect for the fact that human life coexists with us, there’s not much we can do about it. We certainly can’t go banning personal freedoms because we don’t like them. You start down that road, and before you know it we’re all living in North Korea. And I just look awful in khakhi shades.
Okay, okay, I know. Second-hand smoke is bad and dangerous and very, very terrible. But smoking is already banned in every conceivable enclosed space. The only next logical step, if this is still unacceptable, is to criminalize the habit altogether. And in that case, before you know it we’re all living on the set of The Crucible. And I simply can’t imagine any of us will enjoy wearing silly bonnets or tiny little pants, not to mention dealing with all that other awful stuff that went down there, with the witches and whatnot.
That sounds like a pretty bleak future to me. Let’s get our priorities straight, people.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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