Thursday, May 31, 2012

Smoking Man

The sign clearly said (and I quote), “No smoking,” yet here was this guy standing right beside me in the restaurant smoking a cigarette! I was fuming.

“Excuse me, but the sign says, “No Smoking.” Do you mind?” I asked, turning and pointing to the sign over my shoulder.

He turned to me taking a long drag on his butt, blew a billow of smoke. “Sure do mind,” he growled.

I glanced around the restaurant hoping that one of the employees would notice and come to my rescue by enforcing policy. I turned again to the sign,”The sign says . . .”

“I don’t give flying backward flip through a rolling donut what the sign says,” He cut me off taking an even bigger drag from his cigarette, the pungent vapor made more acidic by his odorous breath. His teeth wore sweaters.

“Sweetheart, just leave him alone. He’s waiting to pick up his order and will be leaving soon,” my wife whispered in my ear, tugging on my sleeve.

“Why should anyone have to tolerate this? This . . . this . . . this is ridiculous!” I too loudly whispered back.

“Something wrong?” the offender rumbled, now standing much closer to me than comfort allowed.

I remembered my 9th grade High School drafting teacher, Mr. Willoughby, telling us on the first day of class about every person’s 3-foot bubble of personal space and to avoid the violation of it. Mr. Willoughby always made think of Archie Andrew’s High School Principle in the comics, only my teacher was not as bald. He looked like a fattened version of Larry Fine, the second Stooge gone solo. And suspenders. He always wore suspenders. The boys kept an eye on each other all semester, keeping close eye on our personal space. Mr. Willoughby was nowhere to be found tonight to enforce the bubble rule or the smoking rule.

Without even looking I felt how close he was standing and his offensive breath. His jeans smelled like they had not been washed—ever. I turned and before I could say anything, he poked me in the chest. “You gotta problem with me smoking in public? Well, get over it.” He paused, gathering an idea. “Hey, Why don’t you and me . . .”

The waitress approached carrying a tray bearing a large white bag turned on its side, the mouth folded closed. He paid for his meal, lifted the bag and turned for the door.

“I’ll be outside. Take your time.” He said, pushing the door open.

“Welcome! How many?” the hostess smiled at me and my wife.

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