Excuse Me, Sir

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As I’ve mentioned before, the forest I’m in is experiencing a very strict fire ban. One of the restrictions is that people are not allowed to smoke outside. Smoking is only allowed in a vehicle with the windows rolled up to within an inch or so of the top. (Although smoking is allowed in buildings, neither my campground or the parking lot has a building suitable for smoking.)

The ban on outside smoking was not my decision. It was not the decision of my boss or his boss. The Forest Service made this rule, and I’m just doing my job telling people what’s up.

I hate having to approach people in the process of smoking cigarettes. (It’s always cigarettes people are smoking, never pipes or cigars.) I know people are addicted to the things, and I know they’re not going to be happy when I tell them they can’t get their fix in the open air. (See http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/06/no-smoking/ to read about a woman who went from overly friendly to vicious when I told her she had to get into her car to smoke.) I approach smokers very, very cautiously when I’m about to tell them what they’re doing is against the rules.

I don’t yell across the parking lot at smokers. I get within speaking distance, but not close enough to get hit if the smoker gets violent. I am extra polite right before I thwart smokers. Usually I say, Excuse me, sir (or ma’am). I have to tell you (meaning, I certainly don’t want to tell you this, but I am required to), we are in a very strict fire ban right now (giving them the reason for the upcoming bad news.) You are only allowed to smoke in your vehicle with the windows rolled up. Then I try to get away from the smoker as quickly as possible.

Most smokers comply, probably because most of them think I’m a ranger or at least a Forest Service employee who can write a ticket. But no one has said, What wonderful news! I’ve been looking for a reason to quit.

On the second Saturday in August, I had to speak to two men puffing away.

The first guy was a senior citizen with white hair and a short white beard. He was wearing fancy hiking clothes, and looked sort of like Santa Claus on a forest vacation. I glanced over at the Santa man standing by his car and thought I saw smoke. (With the popularity of vaporizers, sometimes what I originally think is smoke turns out to be vapor. Asking a person vaping to quit smoking is embarrassing, so I try not to make that mistake.) I looked over again and was pretty sure it was a cigarette Santa man had going on over there.

I got out of my chair and walked toward the man. When I was within speaking range, I said, Excuse me, sir. I have to tell you, we’re in a very strict fire ban right now.

Before I could say anything else, he started walking toward me and said, I’m very cautious.

I’m sure any person smoking in a National Forest would tell me s/he is very cautious. Saying it–believing it–does not make it true. I didn’t see what–if anything–Santa man was using as an ashtray. I’m not sure he was letting his ashes fall to the ground, but I’m also not sure he was catching them in a container. He was standing on the asphalt while he smoked–maybe that was his idea of cautious.

As I went on to tell him he was only allowed to smoke in his car with the windows rolled up, he walked over to the trashcan and threw away his cigarette butt. Apparently, I’d noticed him at the end of his cigarette.

The second smoker was middle aged and completely bald. He was wearing what I can only describe as “dressy casual” clothing–long shorts and a shirt with a collar. Perhaps his clothing was suitable for golfing? He was standing on the asphalt too, but near the entrance gate, puffing away in front of God and everybody.

I walked up to him. Excuse me, sir. I have to tell you, we’re in the middle of a strict fire ban. You’re only allowed to smoke in your car with the windows rolled up.

I saw the look of unhappiness on his face as he stalked away from the gate. (I think he was heading back to his vehicle to finish the cigarette, since he didn’t stub it out.)

There should be a sign! he spat at me.

I thought about pointing out the press release about the fire ban posted on one of the information boards, but I couldn’t remember if it addressed smoking or just campfires. I didn’t really want to have a discussion with the guy; I just wanted him to stop smoking out in the open. So I said, Yes, you’re right, there should be.

Then he said, because you’re defying one’s privacy!

What? Defying one’s privacy? Defying his privacy? Ummm, how is it private to smoke a cigarette out in the open, in front of God and everybody? Did he mean I was defying his privacy by speaking to him? How is a sign telling him smoking is prohibited different from me telling him smoking is prohibited? Since I didn’t want to have a discussion with the man, I didn’t question him.

My boss came by later, and I told him about the interaction, told him the man had said we need a No Smoking sign. My boss laughed and said soon we’d have more signs than trees. He probably won’t get us a sign, and I’ll have to continue to defy people’s privacy.

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I took this photo of Smokey the Bear.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

4 Responses »

  1. Smokers have long considered smoking a Right (yes, capital R). Until they were forced to stop, they smoked everywhere, inflicting the smell and irritation on everyone around them. In restaurants, in closed cars (with non-smokers), in PTA meetings, while talking to someone and blowing smoke in their face, etc.

    It’s funny. Well, peculiar, anyway. In America, many people think they have the right to do anything they like, but they also think they have the right to tell everyone else what they should do (and not do). The ultimate hypocrisy.

  2. I believe everyone should have the right to smoke… In their car with the windows all the way up!! I’m very allergic to cigarette smoke and am constantly watchful of smokers. I can’t recall the times I’ve sat in my car impatiently waiting for a smoker to move away from the entrance to a store so I could get by… I think smokers smell worse than dog poo. Too bad they don’t know it.

    I really feel for you having to deal with that.

    • Yes, Camilla, no one’s telling smokers they can’t smoke where I work. Smokers are welcome to smoke…in a place where it puts no one in danger.

      There are many things we as a society have decided folks should do in private (defecate, urinate, masturbate, fornicate, as well as nose picking). Why not smoking too?

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