…there’s someone fuming.
My parents quit smoking when I was seven. Ashtrays stayed out for visitors. I never even felt curious to try. But I didn’t think twice about someone else doing it; it was part of life. In my twenties, I started entertaining in bars and supper-clubs. Smoke clung to my hair and clothes. Next morning, I’d wake up with grit in my eyes. I opened my guitar case and smoke wafted out. Even the music folder reeked. I hated it, but it was part of the job.
Later I abandoned the weekend gigs in favor of raising our boys. We took them to restaurants (to train them to be civilized in public). Some places had a non-smoking section. We’d walk through the smoke to reach the few tables set aside for non-smokers—next to the noisy bussing counter or the kitchen door. One quiet night, we chose to sit in the main area. The few around us were busy eating. But one soon lit up. At the first fumes, my throat closed. I could scarcely breathe; I nearly panicked. I felt embarrassed by the angry looks of the smokers at the next table, but we had to ask to be moved.
With the years it grew worse, and we discovered I have asthma. A trigger is cigarette or cigar smoke. By the second whiff I reach for the inhaler. I can’t begin to number the dark looks I’ve received. Do they think I’m faking it?
Last July, Wisconsin enacted a state-wide smoking ban in public places. Every restaurant we avoided is open to us. We still marvel when we walk in and can both breathe and see. But who could have foreseen the new problem? A balmy evening beckoned us outdoors to escape the crowded stuffiness of a waiting area the other night. I took one step out, inhaled deeply, and ran back in fuming, “Get me outa this stinkin’ fresh air!”
The smokers are outside now.
by Robin J. Steinweg