Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

by admin on September 24, 2013

I was out a couple weeks ago shopping with my friend and her 3 month old daughter. There was a man smoking outside the entrance to the store.  Now before you go bashing me, I have absolutely no issue with anyone’s life choices. He has all rights to smoke if he wants to. It’s what comes next that I’m upset about.

As this is the only entrance, my friend and I try to mind our own business and discreetly get the baby past the smoke as fast as possible. Apparently this is where we were wrong in his eyes.  He sees what we are doing, and proceeds to exhale his smoke in our direction and wave it DIRECTLY INTO THE STROLLER!   We didn’t know how to respond. We just gave him a nasty look as we rushed the baby out of the way.

I’m interested to see how others would have handled this situation. Is there really any other way to handle people like this?   0923-13

Perhaps you were not as discreet as you thought you were in expressing a disdain for the man’s smoking habit.  But no matter, there are cretins in this world that would behave in this obnoxious manner with little to no provocation whatsoever.     This guy reminds me of the junior high school bully who tormented kids for no apparent reason other than delighting in other people’s discomfort.

So, what do you do when faced with a strange man in a public place who makes a passive aggressive action towards a baby?   You avoid him  because to do anything else at that moment is to place the baby right in the middle of an adult conflict with no assurance that you can win the war.   If he’s creepy enough, you call the police to report a suspicious vagrant loitering outside a store and behaving in a way that is not socially acceptable.   You report the incident to the store manager in the chance that he is a store employee or a regular customer that the manager can speak to.

Years ago I encountered a teenaged employee of a grocery store having a major anger fit in the parking lot.   The problem was, he was directing his rage at his supervisor at customers in the parking lot and I was the closest person to him when he went off.    I simply turned on my heels and walked right back into the store, asked to speak to the manager who proceeded to tell me this kid was one of the “emotionally challenged” young adults they hire.   I knew the company tried to hire disabled or mentally challenged individuals, some of whom were a great asset to the store (“Hi Willie!”).   But this individual was different in a way that was not a positive contribution and his behavior was alarming.   I pointed out to the manager that it was not his customers’ responsibility to have to deal with assuaging the explosive anger of one of his employees on their way to their vehicles and that this presented an unknown danger I wasn’t willing to keep encountering.   How do I know the kid won’t pull out a gun or take a knife from the butcher’s area or use a box cutter to put actions to his emotionally charged words?   This employee was not to be seen after that so I assume he was fired.

 

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexis September 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

@kingsrings well as a smoker I’m tired of my time outside being ruined by verbal abuse from people like you but it is not okay for me to say so because I am an evil smoker poisoning the world. There are many dangerous and rude things that people do in public–ride bikes on sidewalks, play offensive music, catcall at people, emit extreme amounts of car exhaust–but they do not get nearly the amount of vitriol as smokers. Also, unless your area is unique there is no way all of your time outside is ruined by smokers, they just aren’t that high a percentage of the population. Is get to smell unpleasant things all the time. Part of being polite is being tolerant and while I am tolerant–and even positively responsive–towards people who ask me to move away from them or out out my cigarette my habit is not about YOU and what you deem to be rude or disgusting.

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Abby September 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

@Michelle P-

In Marozia’s comment, she calls him a jerk. She’s not defending him, she’s pointing out what may have led to the chain of events happening. If I leave my purse in my car unlocked, and my purse gets stolen, someone telling me, the thief was able to steal your purse because you left in unattended in plain sight is not the same thing as saying, the thief was totally justified in stealing and you deserve to be robbed. Advising me to lock my car next time is not an indication that stealing is legal when someone makes it easy to do.

I don’t think anyone would make the argument that even if OP had stood in front of the guy and called him every name in the book for 10 min straight, that it’s a reasonable reaction for the guy to blow smoke into a baby’s face. What people are saying is that there are crazy people in this world who will do completely crazy things with even the most minor provocation, so don’t give them even minor provocation.

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roseyv September 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I live in a first-floor apartment that overlooks a small courtyard. It’s NYC, so it’s a VERY small courtyard, completely enclosed on all sides. When I first came to view the place, the landlord pointed out the window and said “look at the pretty courtyard! Won’t that be nice in the summer?” What he apparently forgot to add was “when every smoker in the building, and quite a few who manage to wander in from elsewhere in the neighborhood by following tenants in on their keys come out here to smoke non-stop, 16 hours a day, 8 months out of the year?”

About a year after I moved in, I suffered a pretty disabling injury that made moving more-or-less out of the question, so for the past 9 years I have had to get up and open and close my living room windows every half hour or so, whenever someone goes out there to light up. The two things that I find the most hilarious about this are that, first, I’m pretty sure one of the main reasons they go out there to smoke in the first place is that they’re too “considerate” to smoke in their own apartments — so they take the elevator down to the first floor and basically smoke into mine instead. And second, the fact that the apparent bad guy in this situation is, you guessed it, me. I’m the villain, because I am so rude that every time one of them comes down there and starts blowing their toxic fumes into my apartment, I get up and insolently close my windows, like I’M TOO GOOD to breathe their second-hand smoke. Who the heck do I think I am?

My point is that it’s quite possible that your guy, far from being a willful jerk, may very well have thought he was striking a blow for good manners. It doesn’t make sense, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

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Kimstu September 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

@MichelleP: “As an anti-smoker, yes I’m going to get my child past someone smoking as quick as I can and yes I’m going to give them a dirty look.”

Getting your child past someone smoking as quick as you can is not rude, which means that what the OP and her friend did is fine.

But giving a smoker a dirty look as you go past them, if they’re smoking in a LEGALLY designated smoking area, is EXTREMELY rude. If the OP and her friend had done that to the smoker they passed, that would NOT have been fine.

Treating this as an ideological ethical issue, which I presume is what you mean by calling yourself an “anti-smoker”, does not excuse you from the duty to follow basic etiquette rules of courtesy to others. Being morally opposed to tattoos wouldn’t entitle you to give a dirty look to a stranger with a tattoo. Being morally opposed to obesity on account of its health hazards wouldn’t entitle you to give a dirty look to a stranger who was very overweight.

If your position is that even modern anti-smoking laws are too lenient about contaminating public spaces with smoke, then by all means get out there and advocate for legislation that will make them more restrictive. But don’t damage your cause by imagining that you have some kind of moral license to indulge in what is nothing more nor less than plain old rudeness towards law-abiding smokers.

Sheesh. I’ve never been a habitual smoker myself, but this kind of arrogance makes me want to go light up in a legal smoking area just to annoy rude and entitled “anti-smokers”. How DARE anybody suggest that it’s okay to give a perfectly gratuitous stinkeye to a fellow human being who is minding their own business and obeying the law?

I think anti-smoking laws are great, but vigilante “smoker shaming” of people who are NOT violating any laws is uncouth and despicable.

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Abby September 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm

@Michelle P-

“@Just4Kicks, why should they move because of your disgusting habit? ”

Didn’t you read her post? She was there first, in an area with plenty of seating. The mom CHOSE to sit next to smoking person then give her dirty looks for smoking. Rather than moving, she could have chosen to you know, not sit next to a smoking person in the first place.

I’m a non smoker, and I have a young child. I wouldn’t let someone smoke in my house or car, and I wouldn’t appreciate if I was outdoors in a tight spot and someone was smoking (like if you’re walking in a crowded area or at an outdoor concert pushed up against people). But if what they’re doing is legal, then I think the onus is on ME to move if it’s bothering me. I would never ask someone to put out their cigarette if they were in an area where it was legal to smoke.

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just4kicks September 25, 2013 at 9:57 pm

@Michelle: because we were OUTSIDE, not in an elevator…And we were there first. As mentioned, there were at least 50 other places away from us. They CHOSE to sit near US, we didn’t sit next to THEM. And, it’s relevant that the mom was in such a hurry to get away from us, she nailed her kid on the chair, which could cause a lot more damage to a baby, then maybe passing smoke fumes…..again, outside.

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Redblues September 26, 2013 at 11:45 am

The smoker was a jerk, and a mentally unbalanced jerk at that. It was up to you or the manager to call the police following his aggressive and threatening behavior. I don’t care if smokers smoke. It is legal. However, other people should not be forced to walk through a foul smelling cloud to get in or out of a building. I can assure you that the horrible smell is at least as offensive to a non smoker as any dirty looks that may offend any smokers. The smell makes me gag, lingers in my hair and clothing, and yes, it is unhealthy. If I choose not to smoke it is also my right not to breathe smoke while out in public. The reason the anti smoking crusade has gone so well in the US is because smokers were rude and inconsiderate about their habit until public sentiment turned against them. Now, instead of learning to protect non smokers from smoke, they have become even more self righteous and insistent about smoking wherever possible, even when the result is that non smoking people make their displeasure known whenever they are forced to walk through a cloud just to enter a building. I don’t think we will read many note stories like this. It is only a matter of time before smoking is pretty much illegal anywhere, unless otherwise designated. If smokers had been considerate in the first place, this would not even be an issue. Personally, I am sick of smokers insisting that they know their smoke is not any inconvenience to anyone, no matter how clearly non smokers explain that it is.

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MichelleP September 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

@Kimstu: “EXTREMELY rude”??? “How DARE anybody suggest?” Spare me the dramatics. I don’t and would never “SHAME” anyone obese (I’m overweight myself) or with tattoos. The difference is that others being obese or having tattoos doesn’t harm me. People blowing smoke in others’ faces does, legal or not. I don’t know where you got that I’m a “vigilant smoker shamer” but I’m not; calling giving someone a dirty look “despicable” is ridiculous.

I stand by what I said. Your right to your disgusting habit ends where it affects me.

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nk September 26, 2013 at 11:42 pm

To all the people arguing about whether OP was discreet enough to avoid insulting the smoking man, it doesn’t really matter in attempting to justify the man’s behavior. Even if OP and her friend did insult him, the baby did not, so there was no excuse for the man to attempt to harm her.

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missminute September 27, 2013 at 1:25 am

The overreaction to smokers is ridiculous. Realistically, the occasional waft of second-hand smoke will do no one, including a baby, any harm. It’s not radiation, people.

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Another Sarah September 27, 2013 at 10:17 am

Quite honestly I am shocked by the attitudes of some of the posters.
No one has said that the smoker was right to do what he did but other commentrers also have a valid point that giving smokers dirty looks and berating them in the street is appalling behaviour!
missminute is right.
I did a little research after reading people’s reactions on here and this is what I found – from a group with a heavy anti-smoking bias.
http://tobaccosmoke.exposurescience.org/real-time-measurement-of-outdoor-tobacco-smoke-particles
In essence – Average air standards are 35 micrograms of particulate matter
In *heavily* smoker-populated areas, outdoor smoking sections and the like, the average particulate matter level found was 30.
Dangerously high levels of particulate matter occurred when within 1 foot (kissing distance) from the smoker. It dropped approximately by a factor of 10x per foot. Around six feet away, it dropped to just above zero.

This attitude that single smokers need to scuttle away to a dim and distant corner is just ridiculous. It’s NOT a health issue, it’s overblown scaremongering because some people don’t like the smell.
Well I don’t like perfume. I have an allergic reaction to it from ten feet away. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life sitting ten yards away from perfume wearers and demanding they move. Nor am I going to give them dirty looks for doing what they have a perfect legal right to do in an open area.

Know why? Because my right to have things the way I want them ends where it affects other people’s perfectly legitimate choices.

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K September 28, 2013 at 8:12 am

I’m so irritated at this man’s behavior. I’m a decade-plus heavy smoker, but here’s the deal: I am not a special snowflake. My right to inhale smoke does not supercede anyone else’s right to NOT breathe smoke. Places I do not smoke:near open doors or windows where the smoke will blow inside; around babies or children; around pregnant women; around the elderly. It’s not hard to duck out of someone’s way! And part of enjoying freedoms (like the freedom to smoke) is understanding that everyone else is free to make THEIR own decisions, and you should never, through thoughtlessness or malice, let your choices limit someone else’s ability to make their choices.

That said, I have — like all smokers — had people who have gone out of their way while I was enjoying a peaceful, away-from-society cigarette, just to berate me for my choices or ask me to promise to quit. Those people I have no patience for.

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Jennifer October 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I have always tried to be a considerate smoker. If a child walks by me I move myself and my cigarette smoke as far away from the child as possible. I stay in designated smoking areas as much as possible, and I always stay aware of where my smoke is going in social settings. To OP: If everything you said is true, well even if you aren’t, then the smoker needs to be smacked with an etiquette stick. I will add, however, that nothing annoys me more than when I am enjoying a cigarette in a designated area and people still feel the need to give me dirty looks or the fake cough. This reminds me of the first cruise I was on. My husband and myself were in a designated smoking area (I would like to add, there are very few designated smoking areas on the ship) as we were leaving one of our ports of call. Unfortunately, this smoking area is a prime spot to see everything during take off. There were quite a few people who were non-smokers who felt the need to give us smokers dirty looks, wave their hands in the air, fake cough, and call us bad names under there breath. The smokers, myself included, could do nothing but look around at the signs that said “designated smoking area” and the obvious ashtrays. We just wanted to enjoy a smoke with our drinks and other cruisers felt the need to come and try to take that from us even though 90% of the boat was non-smoking.

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baby October 18, 2013 at 7:31 pm

As a smoker myself, I make it a priority to go out of my way to avoid all other people not holding a cigarette, themselves, but ESPECIALLY people with children if I have a lit cigarette! And I don’t just mean babies – I mean if they appear to be under 18!
Even if I sit down next to someone in a smoke-friendly environment and they are not smoking, I ask if they mind before I light a cigarette.
It just seems like the nice thing to do. Now if someone were to join me as I sat with a cigarette in my hand and ask me to put it out, I would find that rude, and tell them no.

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