Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Smokers Unite: You Smell Bad and Nobody Likes You

Image courtesy of graur codrin
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It was a happy day for me when smoking was banned in bars and clubs around the country. I don’t miss standing on stage and being enveloped by the slow moving but relentless blue haze that seemed to creep straight out a Stephen King novel. I’ve gotten used to breathing deeply at bars and only smelling disinfectant and desperation. That changed when I went to do a show recently at Karma Lounge in New York City.

A small sign above the door said “Smoking Allowed” but my brain dismissed it. It must be one of those quaint holdovers from back in the day, mere decoration. So when I walked in it took my nose a few minutes to identify what it was smelling.  “Wait … that’s not … but … oh … the sign was right?” My nose was not happy.

By some special dispensation, smoking is allowed at Karma because it’s a Hookah Bar, whatever that means. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness it was a throwback to see smokers at their leisure. They were standing up-right, relaxed, and happy.  I’ve become so accustomed to seeing them furtively smoking in hunched, harried, and huddled groups that this new posture looked almost brazen. I felt happy and sorry for them at the same time. Modern convention has turned them into the Untouchables, and not the sexy crime-fighting kind.

My sympathy however was short-lived as the carcinogenic cloud attached itself to me like a cat that heads for the person in the room who is most allergic to it.  I’d like to say my tolerance for the smell of smoke isn’t what it used to be, but it wasn’t all that strong to begin with. When smoking in night clubs was a ubiquitous fact of life I had a handbag full of defenses. When someone next to me lit up a cigarette, I would light up a stick of incense. If they inquired I’d say, “You smoke what you want and I’ll smoke what I want.”

I also carried small candles. The bartender at the now defunct Pips Comedy Club would always ask me for the one that smelled like maple syrup. As the comfort food aroma battled with burnt tar he’d smile and say, “Now I’m in the mood for pancakes.”  

            It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to have those tools at the ready. So, I walked into Karma unprepared. But the longer I stayed – the things I do for stage time – the more my senses eventually adjusted to the smoky environment. I had almost convinced myself that the smell wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t until I left the club.

            The fresh night air hit me and stirred up the smoky scent that had laid itself on  me like a layer of radioactive dust. I had that, “Oh dear god is that me?” moment. The one you usually have late in the afternoon when you realize that you’ve forgot to put on deodorant that morning. The smoke had worked its way into my skin, clothes, and hair. I smelled horrible. I couldn’t stand myself.

I knew that I’d be up very late doing laundry, showering, and washing my hair. Sure I could let the clothes wait, but there was no way I could put ass to mattress or head to pillow smelling like an ashtray. I also couldn’t go to bed with a wet head of hair, which has grown quite a bit since the smoking ban began. My quest to be the Black Rapunzel has drawbacks, chief among them: even with a blow dryer, it takes my hair longer to dry in the winter.

It was going to be a long night but I thought I’d at least have the company of my insomniac Cocker Spaniel. But when I got home he sniffed me, sneezed, and took his leave. He stomped off to the bedroom, curled up on his pillow, and was snoring within minutes. So much for unconditional dog love. Either second-hand smoke makes my Dog sleepy or he’s a militant anti-smoker who’s not above using the tool of social ostracism to make his point. If the latter, I’m lucky he didn’t also bite me before turning his furry back on me.

It’s one thing to be stink-eye snubbed by strangers. But to be shunned by a loved one, by a being you feed, clothe, house, and care for … I suddenly know how the parents of teenagers must feel. I think I also know how smokers feel. You smell bad and nobody likes you. You need a place of refuge. That place is Europe. But if that’s not in the budget, I know a place where you might find some good Karma. 

Inhale responsibly.

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @ VeryFunnyLady.com

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