by syaffolee

And Another Thing I Detest

Carrying a tray of stained agarose, I punch the up button waiting for the ping and the grinding slide of the elevator doors. I should have taken the stairs instead. More healthier. But that thought is soon swept away. Why would I want to run up seven flights of stairs with hazardous substances that might get smashed into someone running the opposite direction?

When the doors slide closed, I realize I have a headache. And it’s not due to lack of sleep or stress. There’s a distinctive odor lingering in the air. Cigarette smoke. Smoking isn’t allowed in the building, so why on earth would it smell this way? Cigarette-scented air freshner? I’m about to gag and cough when the elevator halts and the doors open. I stumble out and I see the department secretary glare at me over her horn-rimmed glasses. She probably thinks I’m stoned.

I remember that cigarette smoke is an extremely persistent odor, clinging to the smoker like a parasite even with the source ignominously extinguished via shoe heel. It’s like tractor tracks in the snow. Obvious and easily traceable. Smoking outside a research facility (let alone a hospital) to me looks like an oxymoron. Only a few feet away, people are studying cancer and addiction, yet someone is puffing away, heedless that they are killing themselves.

My roommates had their physics friends over again. One of them had asked their American counterparts, “Do you smoke?”

“No. It’s bad for you. It smells horrible.” Besides, in the West, things are decidedly discrimatory toward smokers: they can’t light up in public buildings, restaurants, hotels, and airplanes.

My roommate reminisces. “In China, all the boys smoke. If you don’t smoke, you’re not considered a man.”

Huh. Maybe that explains these statistics that I see popping up everywhere. Why is it considered the grown-up thing to do? Does it make you look more sophisticated? Sexy? I find most smokers to be drama queens. They stand slouched outside with one hand in a pocket and the other dangling the cigarette in a studied gracelessness. Their expressions are pouty since they’ve been forced outside to do their habit. The poses are identical to those emaciated waifs in catalogues who attempt to sell perfumes with over-the-top names like Obsession or Allure.

But then again, maybe they are indeed walking advertisements. Except their obsession is smoking and anything that may have been an allure has become a turn-off.