Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Smoking in Airports

Half past twelve in the Atlanta Airport. As a smoker, I know my place in society. Last year I was outside with some fellow students and smoking. I was only one of two in our class that still practiced the bad habit. I caught a look from someone I did not know, a slight shake of the head. The disapproval. The pity mixed with disgust. In reaction, I turned away slightly from the individual and lowered my head. I turned to my friend and said: “I am evil . . . I still smoke.” “You’re not evil,” she said back, “your just addicted.” She was true but so was I. Smokers are disposable members of society. We are (literally and figuratively) a dying breed. If you don’t believe me, just glance at the small smoking room in concourse A at the Atlantic Airport. The visual rhetorical message could not be more clear . . . people like you are not worth our time or effort. The Airport is very clean, neat, and attractive. Chairs are as comfortable as they can be, with outlets available for people like me, tapping away at their keyboards or playing a movie on a portable device. By contrast, the smoking section is disgusting, neglected, dusty and, simply, missing a ceiling. Wires hang down just out of reach of a taller person than myself. Dust so thick that it too hangs from the wires, making the distance between the tall person and the wires seem less. The floors are dirty. Stains, leafs (how did a leaf get in here?), dust bunnies that finally got too heavy for gravity. Ashtrays are filled with old buds, empty packs, gum and other odds and ends. The seats available are the seats which were considered inappropriate for the main airport—cracks, stuffing coming out, sticky and stained. Who know you could really stain such plastic?? Light fixtures hang at odd angles from the exposed ceiling, held on by weak wires and coated with a think dust. The walls haven’t been repainted in several sections and display a disgusting brown broken up by attempts at patching. The ventilation system doesn’t work and it’s hotter in there than anywhere else in the airport. So, when you leave, you body and clothes yell out to the world: “I am evil, I am a smoker!” The message is plain. This section of the airport is disposable, for disposable people who no longer matter. All of us neglected. Sitting next to two military people, the three of use scan the room. The two of them whisper about the lights and wires hanging down. I glare at the dust. Another two men across the room are also examining the disarray: “Well, I guess we should be happy, at least we have somewhere to smoke. I’ve been flying since yesterday.” Part of the reason I want to quit is because of the way I am looked at by my fellow citizens. I have no desire to be disposable, who does? Before leaving for the airport this morning, my husband and I talked again about quitting. About getting a ‘plan.’ I told him that I was thinking of going to canceling because I need new and better tools to deal with stress. We both will quit. We want to. But I will never look down my nose, once I have succeeded, at those still stuck in the world of nicotine. Before leaving the airport, I must stop at the body shop to buy some smell good spray so I don’t shout out the smell from the non-ventilated room.

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