So I’m back in LA again after Berlin and sadly I’ve brought back a rather nasty little habit with me. I don’t smoke. Well, closer to the truth, I don’t smoke when I live in LA.
Berlin, however, is a very different story. Every time I go back I swear that I’m not going to start puffing away the minute that I land, and I don’t. But give it a week and I have joined the masses of Germans who smoke superbly while standing in the snow in overcoats.
And try as I might, the trail of smoke follows me home to LA. So for the first two weeks of every return, I become a smoking pariah which if most people in this state had their way, would mean I should be banished to an island where they used to keep lepers.
I can’t say for certain whether this is true, but I have a feeling that less Germans than Americans die of cigarette related deaths per smoking capita. Not that any German will tell you that it’s a health product, but when everyone around you smokes and there isn’t a mass hysteria that accompanies this phenomenon, I feel that less people believe that it’s going to imminently kill them, so it doesn’t.
Here in California, people seem to think that they’ll die if they even look at a packet. But the hypocrisies of the anti-smoking lot here are enough to give you a cough.
For starters, you can buy cigarettes in three place; bars (far enough), Supermarkets (ok) and drugstores (weird). I mean, come on. You line up for your pills to make you better, then pick up a carton as you roll though check out. I smell a flip-flop.
And of course you can’t smoke indoors here at all, but you also can’t smoke outdoors either. On one of my return trips, I was smoking on the outdoor part of a cafe, when the staff told me that I couldn’t smoke there. I pointed out that we were on the street next to a main road where car exhausts haze the air all day long, but that seemed to be lost on this actress.
But the clincher for me was when I was having a cigarette outside the front door of a building where I was working and a woman came by. She gave me the dirtiest look as she passed, like I had personally assaulted her.
Me: Is there a problem?
Woman: You’re smoking right outside where I need to walk through and it’s disgusting.
An aside: LA has beautiful sunsets. The reason for this is the fantastic levels of pollution, the gases of which turn our view of the sun descending in the west into the most gorgeous turquoise, purple and orange hues. The pollution here is so bad that your car is dirty the day after it’s washed. Wipe your window sill every week and you’ll be amazed at the black that collects on the cloth.
So I run my finger down the side of the building and hold it up so she can see the black smudge on my fingertip.
Me: You breathe this in every single day. If it’s that much of an issue for you, move to a farm.
Filthy look number two and off she hustled. I have to stop smoking, it’s hazardous to my niceness.