Sunday, March 12, 2006

Reasons to welcome the smoking ban

With only two weeks until stubbing out day, the Times - perhaps with an eye on Scotland's population decline - has been giving us reasons to welcome the ban:
"FROM the instant she saw him across the smoke-free bar, an eyebrow slightly raised and his dark eyes full of mystery, she felt her whole body quiver with desire.

He motioned to the door and she followed him outside.

"Well?" he said, his voice dropping to a delicious whisper. "Do you fancy one?" She stared into his hazel-brown eyes, her pulse quickening as she took in the manly contours of his chest and shoulders. "I'm Tandy," she stammered as he pulled the cigarette packet from his pocket. "I'm Jake," he said, moving closer as he offered a light.

"So, er, what do you make of this smoking ban?" It may not quite be from the pages of the latest Jilly Cooper bodice-ripper, but a wave of high-intensity flirting, with its very own etiquette and code, is heading for Britain."
Steady. But according to the Times, Ireland's smoking ban has been the stuff weddings, divorces and one-night stands are made of - and an astonishing 27% of people have met a partner as a result of sharing an al fresco cigarette together.

"Smirting", as this phenomenon is called, has it's own rules of etiquette. They include: don't light your own cigarettes ("how else are you going to strike up a conversation?"); don't wear a jacket ("after a few drinks, any excuse to snuggle up will be seized upon"); don't "admit to a smoking-related disease: smoking should be seen as fun" (and terminal lung-cancer doesn't qualify as "fun"); and don't "show off your cough". Now, who shows off their cough? "Hey ladies - bet I can hack up the biggest lump of phlegm you'll see this side of the Clyde." This is a turn-off, apparently.

Anyway, it's difficult not to get carried away at the prospect of exciting liaisons with eligible lady smokers because Glasgow pubs at present aren't working too well as a forum for meeting people - and in general, lately they have been getting on my nerves. They're full of people laughing like hyenas at stuff you can bet isn't even funny; big fat men shouting at the telly at the incompetence of some footballer, as if they wouldn't have a heart-attack if they did anything more strenuous than lifting their pint; bloody students doing pub crawls and jolly-japes, blasting themselves to the point of insensibility with Aftershocks, dressed in stupid costumes and being insufferably noisy (this is Glasgow, you morons - St Andrew's is up the road); and women who talk to you all flirtatiously, which you quite like until you discover they're just trying to piss their violent boyfriends off.

It's not good, people; I was all for chucking them altogether but now one can imagine a new world of possibilities. Apart from anything else, there's the prospect of circumventing the behaviour modification stage of a relationship. ("If you loved me, you'd give up the cigarettes". "Damn, I'm stressed - I need a fag".) Wonder how these 'smirting' conversations will go.

Ideal senario:
Eligible Lady Smoker: Hey there, big boy - is that a lighter in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Me: A bit of both, ma cherie.

Take out lighter and huddle conspiratorially to light ELS's ciggy - a forced intimacy on account of the forty mile an hour winds.

So, er, what do you think of the smoking ban?

ELS: Sucks, doesn't it? Typical of this insufferably nannying government that can't even be consistent with its paternalistic middle-class obsession with safety. God, how I hate them.

Me: I think I'm falling in love with you - but I'm going to have to back in now; I'm fucking freezing.

ELS: Ach, I see you have no jacket. Stay and have another - I'll keep you warm.

Me: Ooh, thanks.

Take out another cigarette

ELS: Gosh - that's a lovely big one!

Me: Thanks. I made it myself.

ELS: Isn't that illegal?

Me: Not as illegal as having a cigarette indoors.

ELS: Madness, isn't it? Like the Soviet Union, only less fun. How to escape this insanity?

Me: Hmmm, would you like to come back and see my etchings? I have real glasses at home.

ELS: You smooth-talking devil, you. Ok, as long as you promise to get funny ideas because I am that sort of girl.

Me: Taxi!
However, if it's a night like last night, I can't see this happening, because there isn't much of a basis for rational conversation.

More reaslistic senario:
Me: So, um, what do you think of the smoking ban?

ELS: I'm outside of a pub and it's snowing, ok? What the hell do you think I think of the smoking ban? Can't you see I'm turning blue?

Me: Um, yes, of course. Er, do you have a light?

ELS: Look - I'm not falling for that one again. Can't you even come up with some original patter? You've been reading the Times, haven't you? Well in case you hadn't noticed, this isn't bloody Dublin.

Me: Hmph! Just trying to make conversation...

ELS: Yeah, yeah - heard it. Now push off.

Me: Stuff this for a game of soldiers. Taxi!
Like so much in this town, it'll depend on the weather. Based on a systematic analysis of meteorological reports from the last tweny years, I've calculated the average smoker has about two to three weeks in the year to work their "smirting" magic.

Glaswegians at a taxi rank enjoying the spring weather.

"Wanna come back to my igloo?"

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