The Unreluctant Smoker

I usually take stairs from our sixth-floor apartment to go down to the first. I like the walk – it’s healthy – what’s not is the smell of cigarette smoke in the stairwell.

Cigarette smoke might smell different outside as air nudges and splinters the thickness of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Since the smoke – be it thick or thin – is injurious, most public parks are now no-smoking zones. But, when you smoke in the wrap of a closed structure, the thick white stays, and can commute up and down through the stairwell.

No Smoking is written in faint red – on each floor – on the grainy walls of the stairwells in our high-rise building. Since the faint illegibility might be the excuse for smokers to take their drags, the building management taped a warning on the stairwell doors: It is not permitted to smoke in the stairwells.

There are four stairwell doors on each floor, and 36 floors.

Not permitted? Really?

Some culprits continued to smoke.

Nobody could catch these smokers red-handed for they didn’t know their smoking schedules. And it’s unfortunate, either way, that the odor lingers long after the smoker has stubbed the cigarette butt and left for his abode.

Why don’t they smoke in their abode?

They love their family to death.

Last month, the management issued another warning: It is ILLEGAL to smoke in the building.

ILLEGAL. In caps. A severe step. Two print outs for each door. Double the budget.

Illegal worked. YAY!

Smokers are people, after all. Soon, the smoking zone outside the building swelled. And, there was no smell in the vertical shaft of the building. For a fortnight.

This morning, a strong stench greeted me in the stairwell. The more penetrating the smell, the more probability that the smoker was in action. I slowed my steps down, each foot soft and investigative in its landing. I reached the first floor. At the other end of the corridor was an exit door. I saw him, his back facing me.

He had opened the exit door; his right foot partly out as a door blocker. A cigarette was burning between his fingers; a strong wind rushing the smoke in.

“Excuse me, sir, the stairwell is filled with your smoke,” I said.

He turned around, his big eyes; his foot unmoved. “But I’m smoking outside.” He was wearing a carmine t-shirt.

“The wind’s pushing the smoke in.”

“Not at all.”

“I live on the sixth floor – could smell it there, sir.”

He took a step out, still holding the door. The corridor continued to suck the smoke in. “I’m outside now.”

The last I glimpsed him, he had an awkward posture: right hand on the door, high-strung left fingers holding the cigarette, left foot tapping the concrete, t-shirt ballooning behind him.

The wind was harsh, but for all his hard work, he was still breaking the law.

Superficial life is any addiction (Daily Prompt). Pedestrian sense to use a receptacle (Photo Challenge)

33 thoughts on “The Unreluctant Smoker

  1. Gosh, this is really bad example of a smoker breaks the laws. I understand that sometimes it is hard to stop smoking but stairwell is still public area and inside of a building where the smoking is not allowed. Your post reminds me of a young guy who smoked in the area that connecting the train’s wagons. The conductor was angry with him but he insisted to kept smoking there by arguing the smoking was not allowed inside the train but not in the area. One of the passengers was stepped in and yelled at him that we can smell the smoke inside, then he turned off his cigarette. I still didn’t get how couldn’t he wait until his destination? Was the addiction so badly influencing someone’s rational? Uncontrollable addiction?

    • You’re funny 😄 I remember a similar train incident where the smoker (who stood by the door) argued he was following the law, showing the direction the smoke was heading. When the conductor’s simple and polite reasoning couldn’t convince the smoker, he used a bit of rude sarcasm to convey the message: “You are an ignorant fool. Worse, you’ve burnt the line between sanity and insanity.” Thank you, Indah, for your detailed comment — thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Take care 😄

  2. Oh you caught him smoke-handed! Geesh he had some nerve too as he continued to keep the door open and smoke, even while you called him out on it. Totally irresponsible of him as it’s plainly not allowable behavior in the building. Perhaps the next time he goes to smoke out the door (which is really still in the building) then he will think twice and not do it? Or, he can go outside. Yucky smoke!

    • His future smoking conduct may depend on what he learned. But he had an attitude problem. It wasn’t particularly addiction that made him take a step out braving the wind, but the embarrassment of having been caught. He didn’t show me much of his face, and when he was defending his wrongness, I knew he won’t let his guard down. Hope he will go out next time. Really appreciate your wise words, Christy.

  3. Wonderfully written Mahesh! It never amazes me the things smokers will do just for a quick fag. This recently: looking out of a hospital window, 7 floors up, I noticed a few patients outside the front entrance, two were standing, their IV’s still attached to mobile stands and three others sitting in wheelchairs (all in pj’s and robes) and yes, they were all smoking. Before going back inside to continue their treatment. No wonder the NHS is going bust. Ahh…but that’s a whole other subject. Hope your smoker didn’t catch his ‘death’ standing out in the frigid cold like that…

    • Interesting bit about these patients, my friend. Reminds me of a movie called Flight (Denzel Washington), where a last stage cancer patient holding his IV and mobile stand is taking his drags in a hospital stairway, discussing his soon-dead status. Can’t imagine what addiction could do. Thank you, Sherri, for your time. I love your comments.

  4. it sounds like you were nice to this guy – respectful – but also legating him know that his halfway outside was not working. and in my experience – I think speaking up is hard – but people do not do other people any favors by ignoring that his smoke was still coming in the building. In fact, I have heard other smokers say that they do not want to breathe in second hand smoke – which may sound silly – but they say that when they smoke it is thru a filter – but when they breath in second hand smoke it is from the other end – and they do not prefer that either.

    when we moved to virginia in 2003 – one of the hardest parts for us was waiting YEARS for this state to ban smoking in restaurants. After living in states that already got on board with this healthy move – out tobacco producing state of VA was one of the last states to finally ban this – and for years we had to work around this- and it is a big deal when 50th b-day parties are at restaurants or when you just want to go out with friends or family. argh – and one day we were in northern va and all the restaurants were so smoke filled – we ended up eating at cicis- pizza with the kids. ha! last choice, but at least it was smoke free.

    anyhow, people should hang reminder fliers in the stairwell and keep raising awareness – because smokers need to really know the impact their indoor smoke is making…

    • Well said, P. Your take on second-hand smoke affecting smokers is interesting. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, the hypocrisy. Here, there’s a nice, designated area just outside the lobby where there’s a receptacle, too. And this man had to walk only ten seconds to get there. Perhaps, smokers get a kick from smoking indoors (not their homes though). Thanks for your time. And welcome back 😄

      • thanks for the welcome back M – 🙂 – and a ten second walk – whew – come on now….
        but my heart does go out for thew folks who are addicted and can;t break free – still no excuse to get others polluted w/ the second hand smoke….
        and side note – I am curious about “vaping” – I saw two people doing this in the airport – and one of the street photos I took on my trip was of a guy vaping – and I wonder about what is exactly emitted into the air with their exhales – it is very white smoke and while odorless – I am so curious – hmmmm

      • This is what google says:

        Firstly, Vaping is not smoking.

        Ecigs / Vaping is intended for current adult smokers, that wish to continue enjoying their nicotine habit at a reduced risk.

        Vaping utilizes a Propylene Glycol or Vegetable Glycerin based liquid, mixed with small amounts of nicotine and food grade flavoring that then get vaporized in a small battery powered atomizer, Simulating the experience of smoking. The vapor created is inhaled and exhaled much like cigarette smoke hence the term “VAPING” as opposed to “SMOKING.”

      • thanks – and I will check it out more later this month too – like a while ago I heard that Propylene Glycol added to certain products is real dangerous because it breaks down cell walls and it is a “chemical” – and so I wonder the impact it has on lungs and all that – hm – but thanks for the info right now like that – 🙂
        and “food grade” flavoring doe snot always make something “not dangerous” – because I have heard mixed things about many of the accepted chemicals that are food -grade – – ahhh… but I guess for a smoker it is a better alternative…

      • yes, like starting with a chemical free cigarette too – cos I heard some of the chemicals in many brands are really the biggest danger – and also heard it is unregulated what they can add – and whew – scary stuff….

  5. So challenging when people don’t follow the law and put others at risk. Having facilitated tobacco cessation classes for a time in my career I know the addiction is amazingly powerful. I do hope your situation can be resolved.

  6. Yes it is not good when people do not follow these rules, I went for regular hospital appointment a couple of weeks ago, and outside the main doors is a clear LARGE Sign, NO Smoking.. Yet patients and visitors were stood very near the sign smoking away…
    The smell of stale cigarette smoke is not pleasant, not to mention the fire risks associated in flats..

    What is growing worse here now in the UK is those who smoke Vapours.. The clouds of smoke like vapour that pours from these devices is huge clouds compared with cigarette smoke.. And goodness knows what these chemicals are going to have on the brains or those who innocently inhale them..

    A great write Mahesh.. 🙂

  7. There is hardly anything more noxious to me than cigarette smoke. Lucky I live far away from anything close to cluster. But. Even if a neighbor smokes and the wind wafts just a tiny bit of that chemical smoke, I get twisted about it. Disgusting habit – and what one must realize, I guess, is how difficult it is for addicts to break addictions. Here’s to some clean air for you and yours! ❤

  8. I believe we have discussed this smoke topic before, eh??
    well I like the way you used both prompts – wonderfully interwoven – and we were driving and this is true – the car in front of us left a trail of smoke that got into our car and it was ugh. at the red light there was one person – one person leaving a trail of that much smoke. And that was pretty brave of you to confront him – but also seems done with respect (sir)- and I think that the way you did that can help raise awareness cos some smokers really are clueless to how it spreads –

    and are clueless to the incubator effect.

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