I never did like cigarette smoke (which classifies me as normal), but after being in China for an extended period of time, I’ve adapted a very strong, physical intolerance towards it. This problem has been one part Chinese cigarettes smell like smoldering crap and one part smoking is everywhere. It’s to the point now that if the smell is too thick, I get teary-eyed and start gagging and dry-heaving. So thanks, smoking douchebags!
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a moral lesson on why it’s important to quit. I understand smoking is a free choice. I also realize that, if we’re in a public, open area, making a scene out of a smoker’s habit makes me look like the asshole. What pisses me off is how so many smokers in China knowingly and apathetically ignore No Smoking signs, particularly indoors where the smoke doesn’t dissipate but just lingers forever. You already know my feelings about this, though. I’ve complained about it enough times.
When someone starts smoking in a place they’re not supposed to, nobody says anything. Too many people are of the mindset that bad people are bad people, and you should just let them be. After reading so many stories in the newspaper about Chinese citizens beating each other to death over silly issues of personal shame, maybe not getting involved really is the best solution. Nevertheless, it drives me crazy, especially since I, not being fluent and always fearing retaliation, am too scared to be the one to take a stand. But I have my limits, and they’ve been pushed many times.
When I finally do decide to call smokers out on their rule-breaking behavior, I am always surprised by their willingness to completely ignore me or treat me like an idiot. They will actually try to hide their lit cigarette from me, thinking that if I can’t see it, then there’s no harm done! A few of the other guys I’ve confronted simply said, “I know I can’t smoke here,” before taking another puff and showing no intention of stopping. Wow. All of my anxieties over talking to people about their smoking were true.
I went rollerskating a few nights ago. They have No Smoking signs posted everywhere, probably because the ashes could ruin the hardwood floor, and probably because nobody wants to inhale nasty cigarette smoke when they’re exercising. One guy didn’t care and was sitting on the side, right underneath the sign, blowing smoke in my face every time I skated past. Three times, I told him (in Chinese) that he couldn’t smoke here. Every time, he’d say, “I know,” but do nothing about it. Even after I smacked the cigarette out of his hand, he lit another one as soon as I left.
Before things turned to fisticuffs, a few other guys stopped skating to join the light up, and I knew the only way I was going to restore peace was to inform the attendant. I didn’t want to be “that guy,” but this was getting ridiculous. This needed to stop. I know smoking is sort of a Chinese tradition, as apologists like to note, but when businesses establish rules to help propagate healthy changes, people need to pay attention. Assholes included. And out they went.