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.