As he saw the train approaching on the southbound track, he took one final drag of his cigarette; a nice, full, slow inhale. Right before the automatic train doors swiftly opened, he lazily released a formless cloud of smoke. The man flicked what was left of his cigarette into the air, stepped into the train and whizzed past all those that were waiting for the northbound train. I purposefully kept a close watch on the trajectory of the discarded cigarette, following the burning embers that caught my eye and brooding on the fact that some Angelenos are utter and inconsiderate slobs that shamelessly discard their waste wherever they see fit. I then noticed that another man dressed in casual street attire, not a hobo per se, came along, dusted the discarded cigarette by blowing on it and finished what the other man had started.
To many, this story may be synonymous with being pathetic, but that is exactly, to a lesser degree, what most smokers do in order to score a smoke. Cigarette culture in LA and the whole world for that matter is a peculiar one. Here you have a particularly inexpensive product that is as highly addictive as it is destructive to your health that is easily accessible in most mercantile establishments, that is oxymoronically socially acceptable, yet illicit to partake in most facilities and public spaces. I swear that I don’t have any qualms against the noxious practice, in fact, I kind of like the smell of cigarette smoke as it reminds me of when my dad use to smoke around my siblings and me as children. I know what you’re thinking, “What a great father he was, slowly killing his children via secondhand smoke”. You’d be surprised to learn that his carcinogenic habit was the least of the life scarring maladies that he inflicted on our young lives.
What really bothers me about smoking is the inane culture that surrounds it. This “quasi-toker-zeitgeist” has permeated the fabric of urban culture and embedded itself like the scent of cigarette compounded on the seats of a nylon fabric upholstered 1997 Honda Civic. The whole attitude that just because I’m lighting up to enjoy one of twenty cigarettes I get in a pack, another fellow smoker is allowed to come up to me and demand, not ask for, one. The practice is beyond rude and invasive. Most sane well-adjusted people would not go up to a stranger and make the same request for any other consumable product. For instance, you wouldn’t ask a stranger for a sip of their iced coffee or for a French fry off their plate.
This abhorring practice is light-heartedly nicknamed “bumming” a cigarette, but it’s more like “whoring” for a cigarette. On one particular occasion, I witnessed a guy coming up to another and after having unsuccessfully asked for a cigarette, he proceeded to ask for a drag of the smoker’s own fag. I guess in the legislation that governs smoking culture, such question is stipulated as a legitimate request. In the end, the smoker not only gave the unabashed requester a drag, but one to his female companion as well.
In order for this smoking culture to really become what most smokers think that it is, essentially a quid pro quo, freeloading needs to be brought to a minimum and only practiced with close acquaintances. Freeloaders either have to quit smoking until they have $5 dollars to buy a pack or there needs to be a widespread dissemination of cigarette vending machines that dispense single cancer sticks for a quarter or something. Broke smokers, don’t despair, where there’s a will, there’s a way.