Sunday, May 31, 2015

BUS STORY # 447 (Part 1: “You Smell Like Cigarettes!”)

"No Fish," © all rights reserved, by Rose Mercado

This is the first of a four-part series. I wrote these stories several years ago, when I was still working and riding the bus, after my wife wouldn’t kiss me one evening when I got home from work. I knew these were more memoir than bus story, and I always seemed to have a bus story about someone else in the here and now that I wanted to tell instead. But after last week's post, this seems a good time to go ahead and finally post them. Besides, there are some good bus-themed photos to go along with the stories.

“Phew! You smell like cigarettes!”

This from my wife who pulled back just as I was about to collect a welcome home kiss at the end of my workday. She knows I’m not sneaking smokes or hanging out in bars. She knows I’ve been riding the bus again.

This has been a small issue between us since I began riding, some six years now. Like another bus-related issue between us – getting home later than I would if I drove a car – it’s only a problem on the ride home.

Smoking is not permitted on the bus. That smell of stale cigarette smoke is seeping from the clothes and hair and pores of the riders who smoke elsewhere. Or from riders who spend their workdays in the close company of smoking co-workers.

Fortunately, it is a relatively infrequent occurrence. I’ve come to the conclusion that, like the “perfect storm,” there has to be a convergence of several conditions for anything to happen.

First, there’s the time of day. This is almost always an afternoon, not a morning, problem.

I think this is because most smoking riders haven’t had time to undo the effects of showering, teeth brushing, and changing into clean clothes. By the commute home, they’ve managed to re-saturate themselves, and we non-smokers end up experiencing the stink.

Then there’s the time of year. The warmer the weather, the more likely the problem.

This isn’t ironclad. I remember a cold winter evening standing in the aisle behind a man in a black greatcoat that reeked of old cigarette smoke. But there’s something about warm weather that brings out the odor of just about everything.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that a packed bus offers a far greater opportunity for experiencing second-hand stench than a half-empty bus.

Finally, and really the most interesting of the conditions, there is the route itself. I encounter the problem much less often on the 11 than I do on the Rapid or on the 140/141. And neither of the latter can hold a candle to the dependably crowded and noxious 66.

I find myself generalizing a correlation between the ridership and the level of noxious air, and smoking demographics studies.

There may be a fifth factor: whether or not the bus is one of the older 300s or the newer 700s and 900s. More field study is required.

Although I consider this a minor problem, I do think it is overlooked by those promoting public transportation to those of us who don’t smoke and who have the luxury of an option. And, short of smoking and non-smoking buses, with smokers voluntarily refraining from boarding the non-smoking buses (like that is ever gonna happen), I don’t think there’s a solution.

Nor do I foresee folks starting to make healthy choices anytime soon about tobacco based purely on reason. I didn’t.

(To be continued.)


The photo at the top of this story is titled “No Fish,” © all rights reserved, and is posted with the permission of Rose Mercado. You can see Rose Mercado's photostream on Flickr here.


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