Jorge Milanés Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — There are people who feel ecstatic when they smoke, forgetting they deal others a record-breaking blow when they exhale the tobacco smoke in their faces. It’s like a slap in the face that causes no apparent pain.
Smoking may be a genuine pleasure for many people, as a song by the late Argentine tango legend Carlos Gardel maintains. For my friend Olivia, a journalist who is not a regular smoker, it is a whole lot more than that. She set a world record for the longest cigar ash at the 2014 Havana Cigar Festival.
For non-smokers, inhaling the cigarette or cigar smoke is truly disagreeable. I’ve realized that one’s day here can sometimes be rather bothersome in this regard: smokers are all around you from the moment you step onto the street.
Today, for instance, while waiting at the bus stop, two smokers approached me – one from the right and one from the left. I was caught right in the middle!
I tried to discreetly step away from the cloud of smoke. I even crossed the street. But it was all in vain: a minute later, a woman approached me to ask me the time, and she was holding a cigarette in her hand! Incidentally, she stood next to me while I talked to her about this whole issue, but she didn’t seem to get it. I was able to “pry” myself away from her, at any rate.
Despite having done this, it’s possible I smoked several cigarettes that day, and perhaps more than a few.
When I arrived at work – a closed building in the very heart of Old Havana – three of my colleagues were enjoying a bit of the old, lethal “burnt nicotine,” as Pancho, the garbage collector in my neighborhood, calls it. Ricardo was standing by the office door, Celia was on the balcony and Alicia at her work desk. That was the detonator that made my pent-up anger explode.
“Listen up! I can’t put up with all of the cigarette smoke around me anymore,” I said to them, upset. Then I continued:
“Today, I’ve been forced to smoke because of indolent people who simply do things as they please!”
They immediately began to disperse. That made me think.
We all know tobacco is harmful. If they want to smoke, that’s their problem, but, why should I be forced to smoke with them?
It was a very unpleasant morning. And I should make something clear: I occasionally smoke, but no one’s seen me do it. I smoke but I don’t bother other people when I do it.