14 September 2011

Irritation Is Not The Right Word

My environmental commitments collide with my lungs every time I take a ride on New Jersey Transit.  (That's okay; don't try to picture it.)

I have to stand around on the platform waiting for a train, and almost invariably, some other passenger lights up. And smokers are a particularly suggestible bunch, so as soon as one lights up, others follow. Sometimes I point out they're not allowed to smoke, or ask them if they're aware that smoking is not permitted.  This is always a mistake: they get hostile, they keep smoking. 

Other passengers peer at me. I can never tell if they think I'm a jerk for challenging other people's liberty to pollute the air whenever and whenever they want to, if they're worried that I'm going to go postal next, or if they secretly agree with me but they're worried the smoker is going to go postal.

Sometimes I tell my impromptu audience that I have asthma triggered by cigarette smoke.  This is also a mistake: the smokers get hostile, they continue smoking, and they insist that it can't possible be harming me.  Meanwhile, I feel like a jerk for standing around telling everyone about my health.

I'm taking the train because I want to reduce my environmental impact, and the fact that I ride my bike at each end of the journey is good for my health.

Inhaling cigarette smoke is not good for anyone's health, but it's particularly not good for my health, because it sets off constrictions in my lungs that make it difficult to get oxygen in, and through to my muscles and my brain. It's not just an annoyance.

Try explaining that to the person puffing away under the "No Smoking" sign?  Nahhh.