My Weirdest Pet Peeve

It’s not weird to dislike smoking, it’s the vehemence with which I loathe smokers that is probably a bit weird.


Smokers. I loathe smokers. They are the lowest life forms on Earth. I can say this as I am a cancer surviving, non-smoking daughter of a tobacco addict and therefore am entitled to be as scathing as I like.

My dad was a smoker. He used to fill his pipe every Sunday morning with ‘Borkum Riff Original’ and light up. It was kind of comforting, a hazy, lazy reminder that it was the weekend. But it was also an evil that used to hang in the air in a suspended grey blanket that drifted at eye level. Too high to get over, too low to get under, you just had to breathe it in. The scent of it stuck to the curtains and infiltrated our clothes. Teachers probably detected it in our books. I know I can scent a smoker when I’m marking the weekly spelling tasks.

I tried it once when I was eighteen and I became so dizzy I threw up. I have never touched them since. Hideous sticks of DNA gelignite.

Smokers think they are immune to normal human conventions. Like when sitting in open air cafe, they will light up just as you are about to relish in the ritual devouring of a gourmet pizza with buffalo mozzarella and prawns. They then politely hold the offensive Alpine down low and behind them, slightly away from their friends but directly in wafting distance of your own olfactories.

And as soon as you relax because they have butted out, they light up again, and then hold it up above their head in ‘oh so dainty’ yellow stained fingers with extended pinky and blow the smoke out behind them, in what is obviously, to them, sheer classic cafe-chic. But to me, is enough to make me develop a manic nervous tick.

Or the fact that they drop their butts anywhere and everywhere. And I always seem to get caught behind the people who are walking along the mall at an annoying pace and blocking the overtake. In their hand, yes, another cancer stick polluting my personal air.

Or there are the desperados who just have to get their nicotine fix just outside the Shopping Centre doors, where the proprietors have so graciously painted a thick yellow line, ‘no smoking beyond this point’ like they have some sort of control over where the air begins and the tobacco stench ends. Like the tendrils that escape and twirl and weave their way into your lungs are going to giving a rat’s toss about the boundaries.

Once I was driving with my nephew, then five years old, and he looked out the window and asked, “Aunty Karen, why does that man have a chimney in his mouth?” Bloody good question I thought, as I watched the ridiculously thin, unkempt and filthy individual in question lope across the road, the thin ‘chimney’ balanced precariously, glued with spit to his lower lip, bobbing in time with his gait.

When I was recovering from cancer we were renovating our home and the electrician smoked incessantly. I tried not to breathe while he said “do ya mind if I smoke” as he was lighting up before waiting for an answer.

“Yes actually I do, in case you haven’t notice I AM COMPLETELY BALD, from chemo??”

“I never get sick, because I believe you get what you put out to the universe and I go to this course (he hands me a promotional flier for some crackpot new age life coaching seminar where the speaker is photoshopped with a halo???).

“Really, well perhaps you could “put out” that cigarette? In the garden will do, and perhaps you could get on with creating a universe of down-lights for the family room?”

I was finding his butts for months.

Last week I went to the doctors because I had a cold. This doctor’s surgery was a mosaic of cultures united in our cacophony of spluttering, sniffing, blowing, gurgling and sneezing. Two very large Anglo Australian women walked in with a toddler. They loudly declared the obvious, “no seats” and one of them plonked herself on the floor with the toddler and pulled out a bag of lollies. The kid, completely disinterested started to crawl across the floor in a pink playsuit that was horribly soiled. She crawled toward the woman left standing, waiting at the reception desk.

The seated women made a flicking noise and I lifted my nose from my book because I could have sworn it was the grinding click of a cigarette lighter. I dismissed the thought instantly, I mean, who would light up, in a doctor’s surgery, right? Wrong, she lifted her eyes to me and there it was, the offending article tucked between two heavily rouged lips and the lighter resolutely refusing to gas up, as if in sympathy with my objections.

I looked around incredulously waiting for someone to say something, but everyone was averting their eyes, suddenly interested in the stains on the linoleum. The Islamic women next to me tucked her head further into her hijab, the Chinese couple started talking to each other in Mandarin, but I could tell it was laced with reproach. A Sudanese man picked up his daughter and walked to the furthest end of the waiting room. All seemingly intimidated by the expression on this young woman’s face, “go ahead, say something, I dare you”

Now, as a teacher, I have perfected a series of expressions that eliminate the need for words or shouting, the ‘incredulous’ look that says “seriously, you are really going to do that, make that stupid decision???”. If on those rare occasions that this is ineffective it is quickly replaced by the more general ‘disdainful disapproval’ countenance “oh, you are, are you?”. In desperate times this is closely followed by the always successful, but seldom needed, “death stare”, after which, if you meet my gaze for too long you will surely burst into flames and meet a horrible and painful end.

I subjected our would-be smoker to all three of these, after which she removed the article from between her lips, heaved her mammoth bulk from the floor and with as much attitude as she could muster, walked out of the surgery….and stood beyond the fucking yellow line and blew that Goddamn smoke into the surgery. AAAAAAAAAAAAAArgh.

Boorish, brash, butaine burning, butt-dropping bastards!

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About talkychalky

Teacher, ICT user, Thinker!
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4 Responses to My Weirdest Pet Peeve

  1. Dave says:

    Beautiful and inciteful words as always Karen…..
    I’ve just knocked over the back shed, what do you recomend from here…

  2. Carla says:

    Wow Karen – you go girl!

    Really enjoyed the sentiments of the writing…

    “Do you mind if I smoke?”
    “Of course not. Do you mind if I finish my drink & piss on you?”

    And it’s so well written!

  3. Steve says:

    I once responded to a distinguished old optometrist whilst sitting at a “no smoking” lunch table who asked “Do you mind if I smoke?” with a sincere “Not at all. Do you mind if I fart?” …. It worked a treat.

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