Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Smokin' mad

I love that in Berlin, you can go out of the house wearing literally whatever you want and not get stared at in the U Bahn. I love how the roads are full at 3 am on a Saturday morning and the delicious smell of soft, hot french fries wafts from little eateries that would probably sell batatawadas in India.

What I don't like about Berlin, besides the Crazies, is the smoke. I don't mean weed, although you don't chance upon its sweet-ish smell very often in Berlin. Just sometimes, when wisps escape from under the Studentenwohnheim doors or at underground pubs. The smell of weed doesn't bother me. Nicotine does.

The fact is, for all of Germany's love of rules, they go easy on Berlin. Which is may be a good thing when it comes to breaking the pedestrian signal or for people with the aforementioned weed. But Berlin missed the memo on smoking being hazardous to your health. Berlin, my Berlin of the fat birds, the Schrippe and the alternative culture, encourages smoking.

It's not just the second hand smoking, which is bad as it is. It's that ugly stench. The smell of nicotine clogs your nose, fills your lungs with a burning, singing smell. It hits you straight away. And worst of all? It stays. It slinks into your clothes when you're not looking, and sits in your hair and on the inside of your coat - which means almost every time I go out on a weekend in Berlin, I come back smelling like the smoking room at airports. I then proceed to hang my coat, my scarf, my top and jeans (and several other layers of clothing I'm wearing because it's winter) on a hanger and hang them in various corners of my tiny studio apartment so that they air out. I do this even before I remove my make-up, before I go to the bathroom. before I start foraging for a very early morning snack in the kitchen. Then I sleep, with nothing to do for my hair and skin at the moment, which the smoke does not spare, drilling its stale odour into my very bones. 

Pretty in pink, but still you stink. Sigh.
Now look, I can give you this much: when I whiff some smoke as I'm walking past somewhere or someone, because of its cultural context, it pulls me into a momentary happy place, with friends and good times and relaxing, even though I don't smoke myself, as anyone must have figured out at this point. But it does not mean that the smoke smells good. Worst of all are the pubs that let you smoke. And in Berlin, that includes a LOT of the pubs and bars.

What do you do when most of your friends smoke? What do you do when you're in a smoking bar (because of your friends) and your friends start to light up and look at you and go "Oh I'm sorry, do you mind if we smoke? Would that bother you?" You look around at the hundred other Berliners in the bar smoking around you, and what are you supposed to say to your friends, with their half rolled cigarettes in their eager hands?

Are you supposed to be the uptight one that won't come out unless they're going to a non smoking place?Are you supposed to meet them only at cafes for hei├če Schokolade and sit huddled in your apartment in the evenings? Because once you tell your friends that it bothers you when they always pick a smoking bar, you can't un-tell them. And then every time you go to a smoking bar, they'll probably be thinking that you're horribly uncomfortable the whole time. And if you go to a non smoking bar, you'll be thinking what a bitch you are for making them go out in the cold every time they want to smoke.

Look, I know what you smokers might think of me. It's how some people might think about vegans or people who never drink or dance at parties or people who aren't friends with people because they smoke or drink. I get it. But why should it come down to choosing between your health or your comfort level and having a good time?

The unpleasantness with having to air out my clothes happened several times over the last few days. I figure I can write best about things that are really getting to me right now, even though it will probably mean my friends reading this. Oh well.

The Cyniqueen

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