The Privacy of Smoke

It’s a crisp winter’s night and I’m strolling though Union Square in Lower Manhattan. I’m supposed to be meeting a friend for dinner but when she texts to say she’s running late I suddenly discover I’ve got forty-five minutes to kill. So I duck into a cigar shop, select a Punch Maduro Rothschild from the humidor, snip off the end and walk back into the park. Finding a quiet corner I get the stogie going with a wooden match and settle back to enjoy my favorite pastime – people watching. Unfortunately, people are also watching me.

“That’s disgusting,” a smartly dressed young woman says as she walks past me.

“I beg your pardon?” I reply.

“You look obnoxious smoking that cigar,” she says.

I look at the woman balefully. She’s your prototypical New York babe – cute, dressed in black from head to toe, holding a cup of Starbucks coffee with an iPod plugged into her head.

“I may look obnoxious, dear,” I reply. “But you sound obnoxious.”

“What did you say?” the woman says, popping her headphones out of her ears. I repeat myself.

“What the…” she stammers.

“Have a nice night, Miss.”

The woman looks at me flabbergasted. She tries coming up with a witty comeback, fails, and walks briskly away. I shake my head. It takes all kinds.

Smoking’s bad for you. Don’t ever take it up. Quit if you can. But for me tobacco is like a dysfunctional ex-girlfriend you can’t let go off. Even though you know seeing her is bad for you, when times are tough you find yourself calling her at three in the morning anyway. One day I won’t need these things, but right now my flesh is mighty weak.

I walk over to a construction site and prop myself up against a concrete wall. I get in a whole five minutes of quiet time when a man and woman pushing a baby stroller stop alongside me.

“Can you move somewhere else with that thing?” the man says.

“Excuse me?” I say.

“The smoke,” he says, smiling passive aggressively, “It’s not good for the baby.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’d appreciate if you moved.”

New Yorkers are obsessed with real estate. I once knew a man whose father died from a massive heart attack. The next day, when he went to his father’s place on the West Side to sort though the paperwork, he discovered the landlord had already rented the place and changed the locks. Unfortunately for the landlord the son was a lawyer – and a grieving, pissed off lawyer at that. So Manhattanites turning feral to claim a square meter of asphalt in a public place doesn’t surprise me.

“I was standing here first,” I reply, calmly. “You came up to me.”


“If you were here first,” I continue, “I wouldn’t dream of smoking next to your child.”

The man stares at me lamely. I feel like busting him about his “man bag” but decide against it. Could be for diapers. No use escalating things.

“C’mon honey,” the man says to his wife. “Let’s go.”

“You’re a jerk,” the wife hisses as she walks away. Calm down babe. All that negative energy can’t be good for junior. I look at my watch. I’ve been smoking this thing for six minutes and have been insulted twice. From the reactions I’m getting you’d think I brought an assault rifle to an Obama rally.

I stay on station and puff away. Another woman walks by and breaks into a paroxysm of exaggerated coughing. I ignore her. She coughs some more. I just look at her and smile.

“Those things will kill you,” she says.

“Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” I ask.


“Would you like to pray with me?

The woman rushes off in terror.. My mom grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Bronx and gave me an invaluable piece of advice for dealing with people in New York – if someone’s bugging you just act crazy. I’ve modified her approach somewhat. Public displays of religiosity work just as well as feigning psychosis.

I expel a mouth full of smoke and contemplate what a weird town New York is. People will walk past a naked bum shivering in the streets or a woman sobbing on a street corner but they’ll take time out to castigate a man smoking a cigar. A helluva town. I hope I can finish my smoke before I get stoned to death.

I start shivering so I decide to walk. The sidewalks are thronged with people. Not being totally inconsiderate of my cigar’s effects I walk alongside the curb. But when I notice that people are swerving to avoid me I decide to perform a little experiment. I move into the middle of the sidewalk with my cigar firmly planted in my mouth. The dirty looks I get are legion but the flow of people part ahead of me like the Red Sea before Moses’ staff.

For the next half hour no one else bothers me. Happy and content I continue my walk around the square, cocooned in the opprobrious privacy of smoke.

195 thoughts on “The Privacy of Smoke”

  1. Daniel says:

    How funny! I would FAR rather smell a good cigar than a cigarette. But in any case, if a smoker is there first, I wouldn’t dream of saying anything.

  2. Bec says:

    Good technique for getting rid of people!

  3. frymaster says:

    people who light up with no consideration for other people are obnoxious.

    people who’d WALK UP TO WHERE A SMOKER ALREADY IS and then complain are several orders of magnitude worse

    the arrogance of the people who insulted you has me flabbergasted

  4. George says:

    I would have imagined you would have used a lighter or began to speak in a foreign language.

  5. Chai Cham says:

    i dare you to say i don’t speak english, in an english accent =P wonder if that’ll throw them off ahaahaha

  6. Hymkie says:

    I hate liberal wackos.

  7. lurkey mclurk pants says:

    I prefer cigar smoke to cigarette smoke also, and I’ve never met someone who smokes cigars regularly. They just seem to be smoked as a little treat. If you are outside whats the big deal?

  8. moonbat says:

    You should have said “Having asshat parents isn’t good for the baby either, and the long term damage is way worse.”

  9. nick hinton says:

    privacy of smoke->before i get stoned to death

    allusion to what i think?

  10. I Can't Find A Job says:

    You have to love New Yorkers, especially the Yuppie type. Sure, they might make over $100K a year, but they can’t buy common sense with that kind of money. They live right outside with Holland Tunnel with plumes of exhaust polluting the air every rush hour and use eco-friendly paint because they wouldn’t, *gasp*, be exposed to toxic paint fumes. Despite their constant inhallation of toxic auto fumes and lord knows what else that flows freely in city air, they take a moment to yell at smokers because it’s “bad for them” or to tell them how awful a person he or she is for making others breathe in their filthy smoke.

    Is it just me?

  11. Amit says:

    The waiter of old hath returned. May the force be with you Steve!

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  14. Kempeth says:

    I find cigarette smoke absolutely disgusting but smoking a good cigar as occasional treat is something I can relay to. You rarely see people smoking cigar’s through dinner or lighting one up everywhere they go. The few I’ve met were all very considerate – totally unlike so many cigarette smokers.

    I also really liked the way you shut up those folks. I smiled at the >>Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?<<…

    Wierding people out who bother you not only is one of the easiest and most peaceful ways to make them go away but it’s also funny.

  15. Good Stuff says:


  16. Craig says:

    Keep the faith my brother! Nothing should interrupt a good cigar!

  17. Aussie mum of three says:

    Why can’t people just mind their own business? I had a cyclist slam their arm into my brand new car (denting two panels) whilst screaming “what sort of example are you setting to your children” My children were in the car with me. I had my car engine running, headlights on in a cul-de-sac at the time. He didn’t like where I was waiting to pick up my daughter. What sort of example was HE showing my children?

    When people offer their comments to me, I just say calmly “I think that you should mind your own business”

    Hey, I’ve got three kids, so I have had a couple of opportunities to use this line over the years.

  18. Lil Bit says:

    You are more than welcome to come to our house anytime you want to enjoy a cigar. Our neighbor, hubby and myself are out on the back patio on most Saturday evenings, puffing away. LOL Let the other neighbors try and complain.

  19. Anonymous says:

    People get fed up with smokers, particularly if they have to work with their lazy break-taking asses, and the anger generated just simmers over at inappropriate moments.

    Smokers suck, thoroughly.

  20. mur says:

    I hate breathing smoke, and only have one functional (barely) lung. But jeez – if someone is in a public space and smoking – isn’t it their right to continue in peace? It is up to the non-smoker to move or deal with it privately. I make the rules for my home and car. But I don’t have the right to demand anyone else to do it my way when they are in their own cars, homes, a public space, etc.

    Entitlement will only get you so far, but courtesy, which goes both ways, will carry you much further.

    Hope you are able to continue enjoying your occasional stogies in peace!

  21. Ed says:

    It is incredible how people have forgotten courtesy. And the right people have to their own lives. One of the big reasons I only travel to NYC for short periods if at all. I have seen that behavior travel from the city to all the surrounding areas, its infectious. I am not a smoker, but firmly believe in peoples rights to privacy.

  22. troy says:

    I was with you until you started walking down the middle of the sidewalk. People coming up to you to give you crap about smoking = lame; people not being able to walk down a sidewalk without breathing in your cigar smoke = about as lame.

  23. Sixycat says:

    BRAVO Darling love this post!

  24. savannah says:

    bravo, sugar! xox

  25. keyholeelf says:

    Used to smoke – quit now – back when you could smoke inside a movie theater or restaurant and nobody would raise an eyebrow. I still hate the attitude of these type of people, and I would have loved to stroll around with you. Great article.

  26. Clay says:

    Fantastic read Steve! I’m a four cigar a year smoker, not a cigarette smoker. I am fascinated by bars and restaurants that allow cigarette smoking, but no pipes, cloves, or cigars. Weird to me that the worst smelling of the three is the acceptable choice.

    I absolutely loved your ‘come-backs’ with the three. I did want to know what prayer you might have said with the passing woman though. Makes me wonder: WWJS – “What Would Jesus Smoke?”

  27. bob says:

    Another reason I hate new york.. the entitled attitude of new yorkers.

  28. burnedoutw8ress says:

    Ha I hate people who think they are so superior to others that they actually have the balls to stop someone in the street to give them shit! I am a smoker too and anymore people treat us like we’re lepers or something. It is insane and it really pisses me off, just mind your own fucking business people and nobody will get hurt!

  29. Felix says:

    this is the best post for a couple of years!

  30. Nichole says:

    And that’s why I could not live in NY, and that’s why I hate the entitlement and absurdity of your stereotypical yuppies and “green” people. As someone above said, you’re walking on a sidewalk…exaughst anyone? I love the suburbs. Enough space that people couldn’t care less if a stranger smokes (which I don’t, but still, I COULD.)

  31. Beth says:

    Thank God for Waiter! Your comments about what people will tolerate on their streets is right on. We will watch children being struck by a parent, walk by people who need a meal, or a warm coat, but try lighting up, even on your front porch. Not quite funny.

  32. Jenni says:

    I have to agree with Troy. I was totally with you, right up until the part where you started walking down the middle of the sidewalk. And I’m allergic to tobacco, so I’m pretty sensitive to the elaborate courtesies between smokers and non-smokers. Walking up to someone who is smoking and demanding they stop is bad form, unless the smoker is doing something like standing in the bus shelter while it’s raining. In which case, it’s better to ask politely. But deliberately exposing your smoke to a crowded sidewalk is *also* bad form. You were deliberately participating in behavior which you knew to be aggravating to those around you. Which makes you no better than the people who deliberately harass their waitstaff as a show of power. And you’ve already proven that you think those people are jerks.

  33. Tina says:

    People never cease to amaze me..

  34. Bryan says:

    When I was a cigarette smoker, I used to think cigarette smokers were the most hated people in the world. When I switched to the occassional cigar, I found out I was wrong.

    I’ve gotten crap for smoking cigars at blackjack tables in Vegas…when half the people at the table are smoking cigarettes.

  35. Steven says:

    Bravo for you! Smoke em if you got em!

  36. MartinD28 says:

    I hate wackos, and, conservatives.

  37. Big T.O. says:

    Steve, one of your best posts yet. Missed it. Glad to see you haven’t lost anything.

  38. Peggy says:

    Hahaha! Love “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

    Also the people parting for you when you walked down the middle of the sidewalk. I’ve noticed on crowded platforms in the subway, you’re walking one direction, the crowd is walking the opposite direction: if you try to stay out of their way to one side, they won’t give way, as if you weren’t egven there. But if you’re wallking down the middle of the crowd, steadily, eyes on the ground, they part for you like you’re Moses and they’re the Red Sea.

  39. R.Weathers says:

    LOL I love NY, I live in NY. The person who ‘hates liberal wackos?’ Try to find none of those in NY. I’m surprised New Yorkers were offended at all. Usually comments are met with a sign language we all can understand.

  40. PK says:

    I don’t get it – did those parents want to occupy your wall space next to the construction site? In law, what they did is called “coming to the nuisance.” Like when homes are built near a pig farm and the residents complain about the stench. Methinks people have become more obnoxious since social networking sites first appeared. Perhaps the relative anonimity of the web has emboldened these fools to say whatever is on their mind. Nice work.

  41. Zonadow says:

    I don’t mind smokers at all, but me living in California, a 20 year old man in directly in front of me was puffing his lungs out of a cherry cigar and didn’t even bother to ask me, a 14 year old, if it was bothering me.
    It was going right in my face too, and we couldn’t change our seats. It was a drag race.

  42. Jenjen says:

    Waiter ~ Laughed my rear end off…best diet/Exercise program ever!

    Anonymous ~ Yes…smokers DO suck…it’s how we get the tobacco out of the smoke and into our lungs. Other than that…I don’t invade other people’s lungs with my tobacco unless they have given me permission. I throw away all of my butts in a proper manner. So yes…I do suck, however, I am not sucktacular.

  43. Heather says:

    My dad used to smoke cigars. I’ve always hated the smell of smoke. If I’m walking and someone with a cigarette gets in front of me, I make a conscious effort to get out of the way of the smoke or pass them altogether. But if a smoker is already there, I wouldn’t dream of being obnoxious about it (other way around and you bet I’m the one exaggerating my cough). I don’t like the smoke, so I avoid it. People are dumb. Good for you, Waiter (yes, you’ll always be Waiter).

  44. Rhonda says:

    While I HATE cigarette and cigar smoke, I laughed out loud at your story. In a public place I just avoid a smoker as it is their space too. However, in my home, my car, my business, there is no smoking. I love your approach and wish more people did as you and would put loud, obnoxious, selfish, narcissitic people in their place!

  45. Bob Dobbs says:

    The Two Commandments for civilized living:

    1. Don’t bother other people.
    2. If you’re other people, don’t get bothered too easily.

    A lot of people have problems with commandment 2.

    That was a great story, among your best.

  46. HospitalityInstructor says:

    As a Northern Californian now living in teaching in Texas, I can say that the alleged attitude of some of the fine citizenry of NYC is almost impossible to believe at times. I can’t believe the first comment you received from the young urbanite woman. WOW. Just, WOW.

  47. Jeff says:

    You’ve got the right to do what you want to… legally.

    But I’ve got to admit – the smell of cigarette smoke is obnoxious, cigar smoke flat out repellent.

    There are some nice smelling pipe tobaccos out there, but I wouldn’t want to be smelling those very long either.

  48. kgrrrl says:

    I actually like the smell of cigars, not cigarettes.
    I agree, if they are the ones to make the fuss, make them fuss 🙂 Very amusing how you handled it, well done Waiter 😉

  49. Maureen says:

    I am trying to quit smoking currently, but I wish I would have thought of asking the people who heckled me if they had accepted Jesus. That would have been AMAZING and saved me a lot of headache.

    My favorite one was when I was late to work, driving on the freeway while smoking, and a lady whizzed up next to me, made a smoking gesture, flipped me off, and sped off. Crazy.

  50. BigHairedTexasGirl says:

    One of my favorite movie lines…Someone said to Sharon Stone’s character, “Second-hand smoke kills.” She quipped back, while blowing smoke in their face, “Not reliably.”

  51. Aussie Ben says:

    Ah, the indignant non-smoker. They shit me no-end, especially considering the efforts I make to try not to make smokers feel uncomfortable about their habit. I’ve never really encountered an inconsiderate smoker, and since I’ve had a kid I’ve found smokers to be exceptionally considerate and aware. Sounds like this is a NY problem. One day I’ll get over there and see for myself…

  52. kcbelles says:

    I find it amazing, to have gone from a society where smoking was permitted everywhere (I remember smoking at concerts, during movies, doing grocery shopping) to barely being able to smoke anywhere. And for the most part, I agree with it, but I do wish society would be a little bit more fair and create more spaces/places where smoking is permitted. I find it crazy that we cannot smoke in any bars or restaurants (except for the ones on tribal property), or in some other door parks. We’re outside, for crying out loud.

    But the following was just about the most absurd:

    We went to a football game at Qwest Field in Seattle and we went down right at the end of half time to go outside to blow a cloud. But, per NFL regulations, no re-entry allowed after kick-off, so if we went out of the gates, they would not let us back in. OK, fine – so where is the smoking section? You guessed it – there wasn’t one! How flippin’ rude is that?! We were there from 12:30 until 4:30 – that’s four hours. They have this big, ole plot of land – you can’t tell me they cannot designate a corner outside, away from everything for us poor folk that don’t heed the surgeon general’s warnings. But, no – they told us at the gate that it’s the Health Dept that dictates that there be no smoking section. So, between the NFL and the Health Dept, we’re screwed.

    It just ain’t right.

  53. Karen12359 says:

    I love the way you write! I have also been verbally abused by the Starbucks, SUV, cell phone, obnoxious soccer moms and their brats.

  54. Boabdil says:

    Just tell them you are from France and their disgust will become admiration.

  55. CajunCutie says:

    >>>>the Yuppie type. Sure, they might make over $100K a year, but they can’t buy common sense with that kind of money<<<>>>between the NFL and the Health Dept, we’re screwed<<<<

    That must be a regulation specifically for that stadium. It’s not an NFL thing, that much I know for sure because at the Superdome in New Orleans there are certain entrances that have little barriers set up just outside the doors – like a cattle pen especially for smokers – who need a smoke break during the game. I don’t smoke but I thought that was a very considerate gesture for smokers who are paying big bucks for Saints season tickets.

  56. CajunCutie says:

    >>>>the Yuppie type. Sure, they might make over $100K a year, but they can’t buy common sense with that kind of money<<<

    Southerners have a special designation for those types of people. They are known as the ones who “have more money than sense.” It’s especially appropriate here!

  57. Jay says:

    Partner in crime. As a 3 cigar/day smoker in Malibu it was surprising to read that you receive the same touchy/feely condescending attitude in NYC. I go to great lengths to try not to bother anyone when I smoke, but still get hassled occasionally. Naysayers should consider how they would feel if their legal activities happen to go against the grain of popular opinion.

  58. alison says:

    that was a really good one…can’t wait for the next book – take lots of breaks

  59. steph says:

    your comebacks are GOLD! i need to take a leaf out of your book. lol.

  60. DrKoob says:

    Okay, honestly the idiots who walked up to you and stood there where you had already been smoking your cigar are just that, idiots.

    But I have to say if you had walked by me on the street smoking, I would have been ticked. There are millions of people like me who have very a very sensitive sinus condition. If I had walked by you, I would have wound up in bed with a migraine light headache in my sinus area. It only takes about 60 seconds of smoke to do me in. Why should you (or any other smoker) be allowed to do that to me. If I punched you in the face so you were laid up until tomorrow, I dare say you would have me put in jail but I certainly don’t have that option for you but I guarantee you that how I would feel is worse than a punch in the face.

    Be a little more cautious when you invade others space, please.

  61. Andrea says:

    lol from a non smoker who hates the smell of cigarette smoke. that was hilarious :o) wish people would use a little more rational thought. just cracks me up the lengths people go to in order to make others accommodate. If you see someone smoking and you have issue with it, hold your breath as you walk by :o) problem solved.

  62. xkitchenstaff says:

    Was all along with you until you imposed yourself on the crowd. Sorry Waiter, but IMO you blew any right to indignation with that move. I also question the wisdom of enjoying a smoke (of any kind) just before a date/social meeting, but that’s just me.

    “Would you like to pray with me?” I’ve used a similar line before, works every time!

    Keep ’em coming!

  63. lester says:

    hey, that cigar is stinking up this post … can you take it somewhere else?

  64. KarinGal says:

    I don’t smoke (and I pray to the ends of Earth that my children don’t take it up), but I will defend forever someone else’s right to do so in an open space.

  65. Your Slave says:

    “There are millions of people like me who have very a very sensitive sinus condition. If I had walked by you, I would have wound up in bed with a migraine light headache in my sinus area”

    What did they do for the hundred or so years before the nanny-crybaby state clamped down on smokers? Were there millions of people writhing in agony in every restaurant, airplane, bus, office building, and coffee shop? Were the streets lined with the incapacitated bodies of smoking victims from 1900-1980? Of course not.

    Since our society has been entirely feminized, I guess everyone feels their inconveniences multiplied 10,000 fold. Smelling smoke for 30 or 60 seconds will not harm you or anyone else in the least. If it could, the Western world would have been completely depopulated after 1950. I don’t smoke, but I’m a grown up. It’s really frustrating living in a society of children who want protection from every last thing that bothers them in the slightest!

  66. kyle says:

    I used to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day.
    A couple years ago, they removed my left lung.
    Now I cut my smoking in half.

    I’m puffing 15 feet away from you’re freaking entrance. Tough titties.
    Take a Valium.
    It’s a big city.
    Don’t breathe the smog today either, ok?

    I drink, I smoke, I swear, I drink wine, go (tactical) shooting and go to church.
    I make a good living. I worked hard for it and I’ll do as I damn well please in the space I’m allowed.

    NY’rs must be different from Chicagoans.
    Here they walk about, mind their business or just assassinate you.

    So far, so good for me….I’m still here…for now…..

    **lighting up Macanudo**

  67. Reb says:

    I have missed visiting your blog. I am literally laughing out loud. Thank you……

  68. Gwen says:

    You are my hero!!! Maybe I’m just crazy but I love the smell of cigars so it totally doesn’t both me. Though people need to learn to take their snobby attitudes and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.
    What does bother me however, is the smell of weed. Probably because it’s not legal and it should be done in the privacy of you’re own home.
    Still you rock! and I love it when you update. I also can’t wait for your next book to come out.

  69. Genny says:

    Good for you!!!!!!!! You WERE in that spot first. Why couldn’t that stupid couple go around??? Wow, hopefully Junior doesn’t end up as retarded as mom and dad.

  70. Jen says:

    LOL, love you Steve! I can’t believe the balls some people have to walk up to people and say that.

    Oh and I love how everyone is suddenly “allergic to smoke.” Really? I mean really? Do you break out in hives and go into shock or something? 😛

    Hope the new book is going well! Cant wait to read it 🙂

  71. KenC says:

    Dont smoke myself but would not deny anybody their pleasure , especially here in UK which has a smoking ban within public places.

    This might appeal

  72. Julie says:

    Ugh. I like your writing, but this post makes you sound smug and obnoxious. Not because of the smoking, but because of how interested you seem in showing off your witty comebacks and how you were right and they were wrong.

  73. Waiterrant Fan says:

    I dislike smoke of any kind and will try to avoid it whenever possible.
    One time I was sitting in a public square with my wife and baby having lunch. A little while after we had settled in a young woman came and sat down near us, then proceeded to light up a cigarette. I asked her if she could stop smoking or move (for me, my asthmatic wife and my baby). She replied ‘its a free country’.
    As I ground my teeth I thought – ‘how free is it really? If I came over there and smashed your face in would you still think it was a free country? What if I was to start spitting in your direction, still free?’. Instead all I could do was glare and move. Stupid b*tch.
    (Ok, lots of pent-up hostility, I know)
    However, I would never go up to a smoking person and then demand they move or stop.
    BTW, coming to the nuisance is generally no defence.

  74. Lulu says:

    I have been a server for more years that I care to admit too. 😉
    I really enjoy the enviroment. sp? I get to meet a lot of interesting people. I am not standing on a factory line somewhere.
    I want to take up an issue about being a server is a ‘Mindless” job.
    The key work here is “Mulit-tasking.
    The server has 5 tables going on. Table one is on soup and salad, table two, the order is up in the kitchen…… the cooks are screaming at you to get the orders out of the “window”, table three needs a dessert, table four is asking for more gravy, for more drinks, can you get me more bread? They do this one at a time, instead of the server being able to make thinks in on big swoop! Table 5 needs their check, there is a line in front of the computer and you can’t get to it!
    Table ? needs soup and salad……….. there are no dishes to serve them in…… Run back to the dishroom and get them your self.
    In the meantime, other tables think you are incabled of being a good server!
    Tips reflect that when I am busting my butt off, being stressed out.
    I am busting my butt off and it looks like I am a total idiot.
    Go to a rest and get bad service? You are going to be very critical! Try doing that job!
    To get back to the smoking thing.
    2 observations. I used to be a smoker. I quit 20 years ago. I am not one of “those kind of ex-smokers”
    I worked in a a Casino for 8 years in the rest end of it.
    I was so exposed to so much smoke for such extended lengths of time, It would take me at least 25 minutes after I left to clean my head out. I would eat advil like M&M’s so I could breathe…… I wound up throwing up my stomach lining once a day.
    When it comes to a cigar?
    I lived with 2 guys……….. they were into smoking cigars…..
    When I hit the front door and smelled them, they were very sweet and smelled awesome.
    I knew they were home and I was engulfed in a safe manner.
    If people ask me if they can smoke? I always say, “yes” when they do, my nose starts running and I have no control of it!
    That’s jsut the kind of gal I am

  75. Silent Koala says:

    Sir, my hat is off to you.

  76. meglena says:

    Your wonderful post made my day! Carry on, Steve. As always its a pleasure to read your stuff

  77. ShaBeans says:

    Julie, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not a new thing though. Really enjoy the writing style, but the way Waiter lauds his own ‘witty comebacks’ is cringe-worthy.

  78. Moshizzle says:

    Waiter, did you really walk down the middle of the sidewalk with your cigar? For how long? I bet it was maybe 30 seconds, tops. I’m laughing at this situation and rolling my eyes at all those commmenters with sensitive respiratory tracts. The asbestos coming off the brakes on the cars in NYC (or any other major city) is more hazardous than one single puff of second-hand smoke. People should get educated before they get self-righteous.

  79. muldar says:

    I own two terriers and regularly receive unsolicited advice, often about whether or not a dog bred for the coldness of the Scottish Highlands needs a coat.

    I have begun thanking them and telling them that I am glad they aren’t easily offended by unsolicited advice and then asking if they really think their hairstyle is flattering.

  80. Suz says:

    When people do that to me I usually blow smoke at them.

  81. victoria says:

    People need to mind their own business, if they dont want to be around the smoke than walk around , no one has change the amendments last time i check.

  82. Jackelyn says:

    You’re thoroughly awesome. If you’re ever in British Columbia, there’s a Canadian ready to share a stogie with you any time! 🙂

  83. Clay says:

    Steve – please do not get offended by the people who are criticizing you about walking down the middle of the street with your cigar. It was an experiment, and one I’m sure you won’t repeat. Seriously, if someone is so sensitive to tobacco smoke that simply passing by them with it on the sidewalk causes them health issues, you really shouldn’t be walking on the streets of New York City and breathing the air outside. Could it be the physical reaction to the smoker is enhanced by their opinion of the smoker and thus not totally an involuntary response?

  84. Holly says:

    Love it!! Keep up the ‘good work’!

  85. sadi says:


  86. Peaches says:

    There were too many “touche” moments not to share this with my BIL and a friend – both are cigar smokers.

    I have smoked a cigar (well, part of a cigar) on some occasions even though people aren’t used to women doing so 🙂 I had a role model in a family friend; she and her husband both smoked cigars in public…

    Will probably use the “have you found Jesus” line sometime in the future… Oh, on that note – my BIL has been known (when there are visits from certain religious “missionaries” spreading “the message”) to answer the door totally nekkid…

  87. Booply says:

    In my waiting job, the only thing I can’t stand about cigarette smokers is that I don’t smoke, and so they get to take (when it’s slow usually) a 5-10 minute break every hour or less, while I have to stay and watch the place for them to do so. But the only time I get to take a break is for food or the restroom. Usually smokers I’ve worked with are also lazier than their non-smoking counterparts, but that’s not always true, because some of the best workers I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside took short breaks and were great at their jobs and even helped out other areas of the restaurant. Generalizing any group of people is bad, but in my experiences people who smoke cigars and yes…weed, are much more complacent in how and where they smoke than cigarette smokers. It may just be where I live also, but if you are a smoker and come here to Portland, nobody will bug you…gotta love this town for that!

  88. napplegate says:

    As a career bartender and someone who is victim to the proverbial service-industry vice of cigarette smoking I find quite a few comments on here a bit ridiculous. I can understand that a large majority of people dislike the smell of smoke (despite the fact that 40 million plus people smoke in the US) and find it bothersome but to go to lengths to call smokers lazy or that they’re downright idiots is beyond me. I personally push myself harder behind the bar on busy nights in order to gain ground to have a cigarette and find myself typically the hardest working behind the bar on nights with multiple people on shift.

    I detest smoking in restaurants and completely understand the aversion but find it perfectly acceptable in bars as it is the business’s right to dictate whether they allow the indulgence of legal vices on premise. People across the country in what in what I must stress are URBAN areas have developed a ridiculous sense of entitlement and arrogance that their non-smoking lifestyle is the only valid one. I have a hard time understanding how something that was tolerated and dare I say embraced for the past 80 years is suddenly intolerable. I would be more inclined to believe that in an age of self-diagnosis and a pill to cure anything which ails you people have a hard time dealing with anything that makes them feel remotely ‘unwell’. The smoking bans being passed throughout the country are even more ridiculous from a bar owners side of things as the standard bar regular (you know the people who pay your bills by their spending) tend to be smokers. It is overwhelmingly the people who frequent bars on a once or twice monthly basis who feel as though they have the right to dictate for everyone else what is right and what is not. What flabbergasts me more is the fact that in my state the recently passed ban is expected to save healthcare costs of $50 million but will cost upwards of $300 million in lost tax revenue. The ban the non-smokers complained for will end up costing them far greater in state and property taxes.

    On the side of personal humor, I run on average 30-45 miles per week, diet very healthy and take overall great care of my body, smoking aside. I live healthier than 99% of these people decrying what I chose to do as a dirty, sickly habit as they stuff their faces with fast food. All in all it makes me laugh quite hard knowing that I will most likely outlive them by years.

  89. Davi says:

    I don’t smoke, I hate that my fiance has taken it back up, and I laugh when my co-workers step outside for “fresh air” when it’s 10 degrees outside. And the only reason I was glad when Illinois banned smoking in public establishments is because the smoke dries the hell out of my contacts. But when merged in the depths of winter and sitting at my favorite bar drinking, getting blasted by cold air everytime someone steps out to smoke every 67 seconds…I really just wanna say to the bartender, “PLEASE LET THEM SMOKE IN HERE.”

  90. JC says:

    Great list of smoker comebacks here:

    Some samples:
    “Is it the smoke that bothers you, or the sight of someone enjoying himself?”

    (The Retort Courteous, to female jerk:) “My cigar is beautifully made, gives pleasure, and is silent. You, madam, posess two of these virtues.”

    (The Reproof Valiant, to male jerk:) “Sir, we are both blowing smoke, but I at least have the courtesy to be smoking a fine cigar.”

    (The Emily Post:) “I’ve often wondered which is ruder: smoking a cigar or interrupting a total stranger?”

    (At a singles bar:) “I can’t. I’m researching a novel.”

    (The Backhand Return:) “God, I admire people who aren’t afraid to be disliked.”

    (The Appeal to Simple Justice:) “You’re the third person to ask me that. And if I said yes now, it wouldn’t be fair to the others.”

    (The Civil Servant Squelch:) “I’m only authorized to light ’em, not put ’em out. You need a GS-17. Besides, I’m on my lunch break.”

    (To an indignant young thing:) “I like a filly with spirit.”

    At the deli:) [loudly] “No, I won’t sign your petition to pardon Nazi war criminals!”

    “How ironic… I lit this to keep you away.”

  91. spatchergal says:

    “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”………priceless!!!! As a gal who enjoys a good cigar now n again, I say more power to ya!

  92. Kathy says:

    All you need is that gun you’ve been learning to shoot to “protect” yourself. I can understand your fear after reading your latest offerings.

    You have jumped the shark, and it’s a damn shame. You had a lot of heart, humor, and truth to share. Now you’re just annoying.

  93. Bob says:

    Nice scare quotes there Kathy…ZOMG, someone with a [gasp]GUN might actually “protect themselves”! Such unmitigated gall!

    Project much, dear?

    Just because the concept of self-reliance is so utterly alien to you, perhaps you should never, ever take a self-defense course or learn to “protect” yourself either…might piss off those liberal friends of yours.

    Now be a good little subject, crouch down and lick the nanny-state hand that you EXPECT to “protect” you.

  94. Maui says:

    You remind me of my dad. He likes Monty Python and a good cigar, too. You’re right- if you are standing there, minding your own business, and someone *chooses* to walk by you and stop and tell you to stop smoking, they can shove it. I mean, if they were there first and you walk up and deliberately walk up to them and light up, THEN they have a legitimate claim. However, right now, they need to back off.

  95. Booply says:

    @ Napplegate You may not want to laugh so hard at all the comments lest your blackish lung fly out of your mouth and you fail to accomplish the living longer than all of us bit you pushed. I just find it silly people who hear smoking is bad don’t give it up for that reason. I’d be annoyed as fuck if I had to hear that shit day after day. All in all, you aren’t lying when you say that we’re losing money due to the indoor smoking bans, and that most people who complain about smoking don’t enjoy healthy lifestyles themselves…but to call smokers NOT LAZY? Now that’s just ignorant ;-). You may work hard to get that smoke, but when it’s slow, as I mentioned, you may take twice or three times your normal smoke breaks (I see it far too often where I work) and simply due to that you may do less work. This may not apply to all smokers, just most of the ones I know, that’s all I was saying.

  96. Desert Shark says:

    I used to smoke and I had a person give me that fake coughing routine. I just called her out on her behavior and did my best to make her feel bad. Might not have been a shining moment for me but she got me riled up. I have to remember the whole acting crazy bit the next time I’m confronted by some obnoxious person.

    Also, how dumb were those parents anyway? they were the ones on the move all they had to do was just keep on moving. But instead they needed to stop and ask you to stop smoking in front of the baby and in doing so they put the baby in the way of your smoking longer for a much longer period. some people just don’t think.

  97. Malloy says:

    The United States is a non-smoking nation! No smoking, no drugs, no alcohol, no women – unless you’re married – no foul language, no red meat!

    Land of the free.

  98. Beamer says:

    I’m a smoker, too, and I was with you all the way until the sidewalk thing. Sorry. But I did like your post. Nice to see you back again.

    Anyway, I want to respond to these lame assses who say all smokers are lazy because they take too many cigarette breaks. How is my taking a 5 minute cigarette break any worse than you taking 5 minutes in the stock room with a sandwich? Or you taking 5 minutes to take the trash out when the dumpster is right outside the back door? Or you taking 5 minutes to discuss last night’s game with the fry cook? Or flirt with the new waitress? Or talk to your kids on the phone? Or all the other ways you waste time.

    Take a look around. There are just as many lazy NON smokers are there are lazy smokers. It’s just that NON smokers are a lot more judgemental.

    And maybe you should ask yourself why it is that management allows those smokers to step outside for a quick smoke, and why is it you think you can’t. Maybe it’s because those smokers really ARE doing all of their work, and yours, too, and you probably already know your job is on the line.

    It’s been my experience that smokers take a break, grab a smoke, and get back to work. It’s the non-smokers who abuse the break system because they think the smokers owe it to them, that we should pull more than our share of the weight because we stepped outside for 5 minutes and they didn’t.

    The next time one of you non-smokers wants to complain about me stepping out for a cigarette, stop and think about how much time you just spent arguing on the phone with your significant other while I covered your station.

  99. Vasile says:

    A very funny story. However, you should consider quitting. Please visit for details. Smoking does not give you any advantage and, as you noticed in your post, is also unsocial.

  100. Aussie mum of three says:


  101. bartender says:

    Like I have always said. The reason they banned smoking in bars is so yuppies can take their kids drinking with them. I think you should have smoking bars and non smoking bars so both parties can be happy. The smoking bars will be more crowded as no one wants to watch someones kid run and scream through the place all night while some woman keeps saying “stop it” It seems sports bars are now the place to go after soccer, pee wee football, t-ball, whatever. Lets take the team!!!! Great! trying to watch the play offs with a bunch of kids sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really want to go tell the parents to take the kids home. If I were smoking you betcha they would say something to me.
    I say bring back smoking and let the bars belong to adults again!

  102. BuckarooBanzai says:

    2 things I do to get people to piss off when they’ve provided an unsolicited
    opinion: “I’m sorry you’ve obviously confused me with someone who cares what you think” or if I have change in my pocket I hand it to them and say, “here, now go tell someone who gives a shit”. Both never fail.

  103. Anonymous says:

    I used to smoke, however, even before I quit, I had no problem with the indoor ban. In fact, even as a smoker, I found myself having to go outside frequently for fresh air, as the club/bar/wherever would get so smokey, it would start to bother me. I also don’t agree that bars lose money by not allowing smoking inside. A few of our regulars are chain smokers, and they have no issues with stepping outside for a quick one. Fact is, hardcore smokers can sit there and have a fit, say “you’re gonna lose my business, yadda yadda”, but they will have no where to go, so unless they want to sit home and do nothing, I guess they’ll be back… and everyone can be comfortable…not just those that enjoy poisoning themselves. That being said, I have to give myself a big pat on the back for’s been 3 months and I feel incredible! I didn’t realize how “not incredible” I felt until I got that shit outta my body :). I have A TON more energy, I smell fantastic, and so does everything else, the guy I’ve been dating, has now committed to me ( he did not like the smoking thing), I can pick up my friend’s baby without feeling like I’m getting her dirty, and my life is no longer run by when I can have my next smoke…not to mention the hundred plus dollars I’m not throwing away to kill myself every month!

  104. Mojaveman says:

    Good story. Nice to see you posting more often, Waiter. I enjoy your musings, observations and commentary. I look forward to many more…

  105. Anonymous says:

    “Bringing an assault rifle to an Obama rally…”
    Hm, does the dad really seem like the one who’s passive-aggressive here?

  106. Nanashi says:

    A person can be sensitive to tobacco smoke and not to other things. The immune system is weird like that. As to smoking bans, consider this: many many non-smokers didn’t go to bars because of the smoke. Now they are free to do so. In the long run, sales will either stay the same or go up. I know that for 30 years my asthmatic mother could only go to a couple restaurants, so we almost never ate out. She has been greatly enjoying eating out these past couple years. And I’m happy I can finally go to the local bars here that serve as music venues.

    To the person who attacked another, claiming maybe all those smokers were doing their work as well as the non-smokers’: Bullshit. Besides which, if you’re on an hourly wage, and one person racks up a full hour in short breaks, and the other doesn’t rack up any, but they get paid for the same total hours because each little break doesn’t get knocked off their shift time, do you really think that’s fair?

  107. Jessie says:

    Wow, I don’t think anyone would ever say something like this in KC. Midwesterners just stay away from each other unless we need directions or something. Geez, another reason I’m glad I don’t live in New York.

  108. Holly says:

    @Beamer: The problem is, smokers are ALSO taking 5 minutes for the sandwich, 5 minutes to take the trash out, 5 minutes to talk about last night’s game, in ADDITION to your smoke breaks. Do you really think that non-smokers are the only ones who take sandwich breaks for crying out loud?

    I work in an office, and every hour my colleagues go outside for a smoke, and take at least 10 minutes. By the end of the day, that’s 60 minutes of smoke breaks! They basically take an hour off every day and get paid for it. And no they don’t take short lunches to make up for it either.

  109. Jackie says:

    Aw, Waiter, you are funny. I only wish I had a comeback like yours. Interesting view from the other side.

  110. L says:

    Very Smooth writing.

    How about publishing a collection of short novellas like this … “that guy” would be a hot character.

  111. Anonymous says:

    Smokers are lazy beyond words and to top it off they stink. God I have to hang my coat at work with the smoker’s things and my coat gets to reek too.

    I wish you all to your own little island where nothing ever gets done….

  112. James says:

    Liberals are lazy beyond words and to top it off they stink. God I have to hang my coat at work with the liberal’s things and my coat gets to reek too.

    Naggers are lazy beyond words and to top it off they stink. God I have to hang my coat at work with the nagger’s things and my coat gets to reek too.

    I wish you all to your own little island where nothing ever gets done….

    I wish you all to your own little island where nothing ever gets done….

  113. Tirade says:

    I’m one of those many people who can’t stand smoking… and even I think people who act like that towards smokers are absolute douchebags. Nobody has the right to force someone else to live their lifestyle. As long as you’re not blowing your smoke in somebody’s face, they really don’t have a right to complain.

  114. Dracil says:

    So the lesson you learned from these obnoxious people was to be just like them in the end with the sidewalk thing? That’s just not right.

  115. Lonevoice says:

    Been the target of obnoxious cigarette smokers before, in bars where the air is blue with THEIR smoke. I’m smoking my wonderful; hand-rolled sticks, reading a book and MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS AWAY FROM THEM!!

    (much as the damn things cost, they oughtta pay me to smoke next to them!)

    Well done, Waiter!!!

  116. Cherie says:

    Couldn’t care less about the smoke one or the other….but, I sure enjoy your clever writing! CP

  117. Beamer says:
    Nice post, James! Nice name Anonymous!

  118. Randy says:

    I would like to commend you on your cigar choice, I prefer Punch Gran Cru myself. I have always disliked the smell of cigarettes but I love a good cigar on occasion. I think it’s become ridiculous at the number of places you cannot smoke at anymore, especially bars. What if you go to a martini bar and wish to enjoy a good cigar with your drink. Are you gonna be forced to take your martini outside to enjoy it with your cigar? I myself have found that cigar smokers are much more polite than cigarette smokers. I always ask those around me if it will offend them before lighting up a good cigar. A good cigar actually has a pleasant smell, I’ve been told on numerous occasions how good my cigars smell. It’s the cheap cigars that stink!

  119. PutAForkinCoakley-She's DONE :) says:

    I love how sanctimonious Libbies get about smokers.
    Smokers are SO EVIL but men pulling meat balls out of each others asses is “OK”?–they can’t help it? Well child molesters can’t help It either–does that mean you’re alright with them too? Martha Coakley refused to prosecute a COP who RAPED his 23 MONTH OLD NIECE WITH A HOT CURLING IRON BECAUSE THIS CREEP’S DAD WAS A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR $$$$ TO HER CAMPAIGN…..

    Martha didn’t have a problem with it–now she gets to pay the price in the Massachusetts race for Chappaquiddick Teddy’s Senate Seat 😉

    Can you say “HYPOCRITE”? lol

  120. PutAForkinCoakley-She's DONE :) says:

    “Would you like to pray with me?”

    ROTFLMAO! What a GREAT way to get rid of idiots. Thanks! I’ll remember it. Beats picking my nose or saying “I work at KMart” to get rid of people 😉

  121. Paloma says:

    Hey, I actually am in the middle of reading your book…and am loving it! You’re fantastic when it comes to writing, and I hope that you’ve come to realize that that might very well be your big talent 🙂 Thanks for telling everyone how crazy it is to work as a waiter, and how people should take the time to consider the possibility that the waiters have lives and feelings, too. 🙂


  122. kyle says:

    “I wish you all to your own little island where nothing ever gets done….”



  123. The Ghost says:

    You choose to smoke, regardless of how it’s been rolled/prepared/smells.

    I choose not to smoke.

    I don’t want to smell it, I don’t want to smell like it. It gets on my clothes, in my hair, just from walking in a room some smoker has been. It’s dirty. It’s mind boggling that people still start smoking after 3-4 decades of knowing how bad it is for you.

    I appreciate when someone is courteous enough to ask if they can light up by me. I remove myself from people who don’t ask, even though I was there first.

    In my opinion, the “crime” is that your (general towards smokers) choice affects other people. Just like drunk driving doesn’t hurt just the offender, smoking affects those who choose not to. I don’t force my life choices on you, why should you on me?

  124. Rocky says:

    you my friend ROCK! I’ve been reading you for years you got me thru many a night whilst tending bar/waiting tables etc…this smoking entry was just that: SMOKING! Keep em coming!
    TOO funny, HELL I say get rid of CONAN AND JAY well esp JAY and PUT YOU in thier place!

  125. Clay says:

    Isn’t it funny that today we have what some people describe as ‘a true intellectual’ in the White House, who happens to be a smoker. From some of the comments on this blog entry, I would guess that most would think that smokers are stupid, except for the President, because we all know he is ‘trying to quit’.

    I am not a smoker, but I believe the affects of second-hand smoke have been greatly exaggerated in order to enrichen lawyer’s bank accounts. I go to bars where there is a lot of smoking, and enjoy my Guinness without complaining about what others are doing around me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to have smoking on a airplane or in a restaurant, but outside or in bars……have at it and freakin’ enjoy it too!

  126. blueoreogn says:

    Steve – you dissident, you. 😉 My sister is the same way, always waving smoke away from her face. This is payback to our pack-a-day parents. I don’t smoke tabacco but, if pot gets legalized, i just might get religion. so to speak.

  127. Misinformed says:

    I read through the first 20 posts and while I agree with pretty much everything except number 18 and a few others. I am not a smoker myself but grew up and spent most of my time at a friends house whose parent chain smoked. That went on for maybe 5 or 6 years as we got older. I hadn’t been over for a couple months and when I went in I was immidiately dizzy and had trouble breathing. I found I couldn’t function in an environment with cigarette smoke. Even worked at chain restaruant with a smoking section still and had to tell the manager after one shift that I couln’t work in there anymore because I couldn’t function.

    Anyways back to my main point which I really haven’t established yet. I think that it is inconsiderate of those who smoke to smoke (in public). Those of us who don’t have our reasons, either by choice or because of allergies or whatever. Cigarettes have been proven to be bad for our health. Both primarily and through secondary smoke. If you chose to put those chemicals in your body thats fine, just like people who smoke pot, if thats what you want to do then do it. But don’t expose it to those who have made a choice not to. I’ll avoid you if your smoking in public. I sure won’t walk up to you and stand next to you and say move. I’m all for having designated smoking areas or rooms, what ever but its not right that you can expose me to something I choose not to be a part of because you are addicted to it. I have as much a right to ‘clean’ air as you do to smoke a cigarette. What really bugs me when I’m at work though, as a waiter, is the wait staff that gets a break to go smoke. I don’t smoke, where’s my break? I have to continue doing my job and watch their tables for them while they go chill and escape the mad house for 5 minutes. They should be tipping me for doing that or I should be getting a break too.

  128. Misinformed says:

    Those exaggerations haven’t enlarged that lawyers bank accounts as much as they have the governments. The only reason they don’t get shut down is because of all the tax dollars that they get from the industry and all the people they employ. Smoking has been proven to be bad for you. I am an example of what inhaling second hand smoke for 6 years while I was growing up can do to you. I can’t function around it, I have shortness of breathe, yes those can be attributed to other things but I didn’t have these problems beforehand. And my friend who lived with it has his own issues as well.

  129. ramki says:

    Awesome!! Love ya, Waiter!

  130. willis says:

    I *loved* this. Pure and simple. Thanks for the morning chuckle, Waiter.

  131. Madame B. says:

    The lack of manners in society is horrifying…Your story only serves to prove my point and as such it has been featured in my most recent Advice to Obey Column post titled Mind Your Manners! Check it out!

  132. toni says:

    Yes, NY’ers are a breed amongst themselves, extremely self involved, pretentious, and rude..dont’ forget self righteous. Your life moment is great and your mom’s advice pricelss..”Just act crazy if someone bugs you”..will do! Thanks.

  133. Tracy says:

    Militant non-smokers, how I hate thee.

    Great post waiter. I also love how most of the comments ‘tsk-ing’ you were anonymous.

  134. krs says:

    it’s horrible you were bothered whilst trying to relax. i prefer to smoke in a cigar store to avoid these types of encounters. i just don’t know why people have to control smokers even outside. i don’t go up to random fat people and tell them they should eat less because it’s unhealthy.

  135. Anonymous says:

    I stumbled upon this blog a few weeks ago and was planning to purchase the book. After reading the comments to the last few posts I realize that I do not fit your demographic. Good luck nonetheless.

  136. SUPER NIGGGER says:


  137. Stephan says:

    Wow! I just love how the woman in the park felt totally justified sticking her nose into your business but then got all flustered when you returned the favor. People are such jerks sometimes. Good for you for standing your ground!

  138. Kelli says:

    I’m with Troy on this one. You went from being unobtrusive and getting flack for it anyway, to being obnoxious and getting a wide berth.

    But then maybe that’s the way you have to be in New York; acting as though you’re being considerate of other people leads those other people to be inconsiderate of YOU. When you decided to be confrontational about it, people avoided you.

  139. Anonymous says:

    krs, I hate to have to point out the obvious to you (well, no I don’t, actually, it amuses me that ur too dense to see it) but fat people are only hurting themselves, smoke goes out into the air and lungs of everyone around you. duh.

  140. Vikkitikkitavi says:

    The amount of damage done to someone by walking past a smoker on the street and not walking past a smoker on the street is exactly the same. Get real. People use second-hand smoke as an excuse when in reality they just don’t like cigarette or cigar smoke. Well, I don’t like idiotic cell phone conversations, but you don’t hear me complaining about how they’re killing me by raising my blood pressure. Keep walking down the middle of the street, Steve. I love you for it.

  141. paulo1 says:

    I’ve never understood why bars and restaurants can’t just elect to be either smoking or non smoking and then let the public decide which type of establishment they choose to patronize. Employees can equally make their choice of which type of environment they want to work in. Win-Win it seems to me.

  142. leithold says:


    sorry steve but i’m a smoke hater myself. its ok if a smoker stays on one spot so that people can avoid him/her. but i get annoyed when i’m behind a smoker on a crowded street where i cant overtake him/her, smoke wafting behind.

    not everybody smokes. a lot of people hate smoke. i’d be infintely glad if smokers dont walk around crowded streets with a lit cigar.

  143. Misinformed says:

    Not everyone has their choice of where they want to work. Especially these days, its more like. You’re hiring? I’ll take it. Because they have to to survive. They can’t say, oh, you’re a smoking establishment, nevermind I’ll starve and wait for a position to open up in a non-smoking place to hire me.

    Can’t stand cigarettes but I love cigar smoke. Smells 1,000 times better. My dad was once told to put out his pipe on a plane, back when it was still socially acceptable to smoke on a plane, he did as he was asked but could not get an answer as to why he couldn’t smoke a pipe on a plane while others smoked cigarettes. A gentlemen sitting behind him made a comment to his wife that he wished they would let him smoke it because it smelled a lot better than all the cigarettes that were lit.

    Anyway, just rambling because I’m bored. Love the book, read it twice now, had to buy it again because I lent my copy out and never got it back. Just as funny the second time around. Can’t wait to read the next one.

  144. paulo1 says:

    misinformed : it`s not an either or choice, it`s a both way choice with an option. If you`re o.k. with smoke even though you dont indulge then go for it`.Same thing the other way.

  145. napplegate says:

    it really comes down to the point that the majority of people around the world are not bothered by cigarette smoke in the least. americans feel that they have the right to pass judgement or to that length feel better than someone because it’s “supposed” health implications.

    the comment about someone having shortness of breath and other “issues” due to breathing second hand smoke as a child really cracked me up. yet again, i run 30-45 miles a week as well as smoke about 3-4 packs a week and i have zero issues with breathing. to all the people lambasting smokers, i’d be willing to bet that your diet as a whole is far more dangerous than a habit that has yet to be proven dangerous to those around you. i had this discussion with a friend the other night and as we traced the members of our families who smoked we came to the realization that everyone who smoked heavily/regularly died of things other than causes directly related to smoking. people need to validate what they don’t LIKE and not based on logic more often than not.

  146. Sara in PDX says:

    Do you want some cheese with that WHINE??!!Julie thought Steve was arrogant and sarcastic, but Steve didn’t begin the invasion of his space,the “It’s all about me” people did.Good stuff Steve.I would have done the same!

  147. Henry Inviktus Cuntage the Third says:


    First of all. Awesome freakin writing mate.

    Third. I love reading your site with a good cuppa. Keep up the good work!

  148. TonyDonuts says:

    I was standing outside the cigar tent at the Renaissance Festival one year.

    I had just purchased a Dunhill cigar. Yummy, yummy goodness. I had snipped it, and lit it, and was standing there in the sun enjoying it.

    I looked up and saw him.

    Captain Birkenstock had spotted me and my evil, evil cigar from a hundred yards away. He marched straight up to me, stopped an arms length away from me, and began waving his hand in front of his face and doing the little cough, cough thing.

    I took a puff, and asked, “Am I bothering you?”

    He looked at me, stern disapproval etched all over his face, “Yes you are. People shouldn’t smoke those awful things!”

    I took a long puff, and blew the smoke right in his face, and said, “Good.”

    He look astonished, and went away.

    Seriously, I could understand if I kicked the door to his home in and torched a stogie in his living room. But I was nowhere near him, he just decided that somebody was doing something he did approve of and It Must Be Stopped.

  149. TonyDonuts says:

    he >not< did approve, is how that should read.


  150. slag says:

    this is one of your best posts. i thought you werent allowed to smoke anything, anywhere in new york city anymore. i used to want to go there, but new york being the capital of tobacco user ostracization doesnt sit well with me. thanks for the tale.

    1. ClemenceD says:

      There are cigar clubs in NYC and they are quite popular. There may be private cigarette clubs with alcohol, too, for all I know.

      I’m not a smoker, but I miss the old smoky bars of New York City. They hold a great nostalgia for me, from back when life wasn’t so controlled and sanitized.

      I have to laugh at all these people generalizing about New Yorkers from one anecdote. There are millions of non-snotty, non-self-righteous people here. If you want Holier-Than-Thou self-righteousness, try the Bay Area.

  151. Stephanie says:

    Mmm, I love the scent of cigar smoke. Not that I’d ever take up the habit or anything, but I just think cigars are infinitely less disgusting than cigarettes.

    I wonder if cigars are better or worse for your health and cigarettes?

  152. Jana M. says:

    As usual, you certainly know how to elicit a response! Seems everyone has something to say about smoke – whether it’s cigar or cigarette. Frankly, I think that before we start putting those opinions out there for everyone else to comment on, we should look at our OWN vices!

    To those who sterotype all New Yorkers by remarking on their sense of entitlement, I say this: You’re damned right we’re entitled! Move along, People.

  153. Big Sexy says:

    As a smoker trying to quit, I will be using your line about have you accepted Jesus! Made me laugh out loud! Oh and BTW…a drunk is more obnoxious than a smoker!

  154. Miss Prissy says:

    Cigars are disgusting. They pollute the air for hundreds of yards around with their stench. I don’t understand why cigar smokers don’t just shove their face in a pile of catshit instead – it smells about the same, and at least the catshit wouldn’t stink things up 2 blocks away.

  155. pdwalker says:

    Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

    Brilliant comeback. I’m stealing it.

    The level of rudeness from those passersby is unbelievable. I bet they vote democrat.

  156. Reader in Houston says:

    Well done, Steve. I consider myself a devotee of Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, the etiquette columnist for The Washington Post, and she’d agree with you that the folks you encountered were unspeakably rude. Your standing your ground and even injecting humor into the situation are both admirable responses, and I’ve heard the adage about acting crazy before, but have not tried it.

    One fault American “commoners” seem to have is that they don’t seem to feel the need to be polite. I don’t think this is just a problem in New York, I think this is a problem in most, if not all, big cities. Ordinary folk have this desire to feel morally superior so they toss a missive like the ones you got without thinking about it. The couple with the child were especially in the wrong. You were there first; they could have moved as you suggested. What they did was the equivalent of moving into a house near a night club and then complaining to the authorities about the noise (we had that happen here in Houston).

    The chick with the headphones, dressed in black, needs a lesson in civility. Passing judgment to a passer-by is bad form. I’d be willing to be she was looking for a superiority “fix” so she took a swipe at you. Some folks always seem to be looking for some acceptable form of bigotry to make themselves feel good; I guess picking on those she considers less healthy is hers.

    Keep writing, Steve. In addition to your education about the foodservice industry I’ve learned even more about human nature. And for that, I consider you – and Judith Martin – among the finest writers our country has.

  157. Jessica says:

    this may be a bit over emotional, but you are seriously my new hero. as a smoker myself, i can sympathize with what you went through (though my comebacks to people’s rudeness was nowhere near as whitty). i am sick and tired of discrimination against smokers, especially since most smokers i know are more than willing to accomadate the needs of non-smokers. i know that i have a bad habit, but it is no excuse for people to be rude. bravo to you sir. bravo

  158. Luther says:

    Funny how almost nobody complains about second hand beer…

  159. JD says:

    Couldn’t agree more! You know, there are all these self-righteous, so called pro-health people out there crying out for there rights not to be subjected to smoke, and yet no one has stopped to consider the rights of us smokers.

    I remember being in Atlantic City – some old woman at the nickel slots glared at me balefully. I didn’t answer. I just blew smoke rings directly at the “Smoking Section” sign right above her head, grinned, and walked away.

  160. ChewableC says:

    I have lived in NYC for over 10 years, and I completely agree with #64’s stance: our society has become so completely whiny and selfish that its members now create diseases (fibromyalgia, ADHD, “sensitivity”) in order to not face and live life as it is. Or, they speak out against smokers before they do the real idiots: the MTA, lazy union employees and/or traffic cops.

    Regardless, said psychosomatic beliefs are then promoted and exploited by our healthcare/pharmaceutical industries, who make millions selling drugs which numb us enough (lyrica for fibromyalgia, amphetamines for ADHD, bubble houses and unnecessary, unnatural cleanses and dietary restrictions for “sensitivities”) so that we don’t have to deal with our fear of ourselves that created the “diseases” in the first place.

    Add to this current bizarre parenting methods that value scheduled activities, protection and success over a child’s natural trial-and-error exploration of the outside world, and we get the current homogeneous crop of Manhattanites who are all angry at ridiculous things because someone told them to be. If Baby Yoga magazine says it, it must be so, eh?

    Why can’t this city’s residents experience individual, sometimes (oh, no!:) freaky pleasure, share this with others and, just maybe, let others have their own? I am all for smoking in public; crud like that is why I moved here. I sure wish New York’s thrilling, Legendary Dark Side would come back! Get over yourselves: you and your SUV strollers are not that important, and it can all end sooner than you think. Or you could have been born somewhere too poor to support this luxury of postponing whole sections of reality.

  161. Rex says:

    Strange as it might sound, I’m allergic to cigarette smoke but not cigar smoke. I smoke 2 cigars/week when it’s not hay fever season, but being exposed to cigarette smoke for more than a few seconds causes congestion, and longer exposure causes tickly throat which more often than not turns into a cold and/or sinus infection. My wife is not allergic to cigarette smoke, but they do trigger her migraines.

    So for us, it’s not simply a matter of “don’t like the smell” of cigarette smoke.

    As for the dangers of cigar smoke, the great big thorough study that definitively linked cigarette smoking with lung cancer had to group 5/day cigar smokers with 1/day cigar smokers to find any link. 1/day and 2/day cigar smokers were not linked to any lung cancer. I think that’s mainly because cigar smokers don’t inhale, with a few exceptions from people who smoke(d) cigrettes before turning to cigars.

  162. Clay says:

    I have to disagree with napplegate – I know more than 10 people that have died from lung cancer that were regular cigarette smokers. It is a habit that kills people or at least shortens their life-span. However, I view it as a choice you make knowing the risks. Driving recklessly can kill, eating a poor diet can kill, being reckless sexually can kill you, etc…..

    I just want to clarify that smoking cigarettes does injure your body, though it’s usually the excess of it that truly causes problems, as would excess of many different habits.

  163. Nana G. says:

    Hi. Just to start out, I love this site. You’ve got witty humor and jokes…it’s great. I agree with all the stuff you said here, as long as you don’t walk up to a place with a baby and light up. 0.0 And don’t spit anywhere near ANYONE. It’s so disgusting and a health hazard.

    On a different, restaurant related note, is it okay to refuse a table sometimes. Like my mom and I (when I was younger) would go out to our neighborhood Burttucis and eat there alot. So much so, that they practically knew what we wanted LOL.
    Sometimes, with a server we didn’t know so well, they would try to seat us in the middle. And bear in mind this place was pretty empty when we came for like, late weekday lunch or whatever. So my mom always wanted a booth (I don’t know why, maybe she though they were more privet) and requested one. Is this rude or annoying? This would be useful. Thanks.

  164. Nana G. says:

    And I want to add, that some people are almost denying the health risks involved with smoking. There are hazards, and very very serious ones. Don’t deny it y’all.

  165. Sara Stricherz says:

    You honestly sound like a bitter, old, unattractive man who loves to get a rise out of people (and this is coming from a fan of yours). Plus you’re stubborn. You know it’s a bad habit, pushes people away and it’s killing you, and yet you choose your “proverbial ex-girlfriend” over having an ACTUAL girlfriend. Very sad.

  166. Marlie says:

    I also hear bitterness and trying to get a rise out of people – but I also hear loneliness and sadness in this story.

  167. meh says:

    @ Sara Stricherz

    You sound like you need to get laid.

  168. renee says:

    Good for you! Your body your choice.

  169. bernie says:

    I believe smoking in public is just like pissing in public. If you’re not splashing on anyone, then no one should bother you. However, you should at least try to hide the disgusting behavior.

    While I agree you have the right to pee or smoke, you should be more discreet about it. Children and others should not see you doing it.

    The last thing you should be doing is displaying to others that what you are doing is somehow OK. People should be making fun of smokers, else how are young children to be discouraged in its use?

    So I say, smoke all you want, go up in flames, I don’t care; just have the decency not to let others see you doing it for the same reasons you should not shake your wanker in front of young kids: there are certain things they should not see.

  170. Vincent Eagan says:

    “Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” I ask.
    “Would you like to pray with me?”
    The woman rushes off in terror..

    I laughed for five minutes at that, and I’m a preacher! The big thing used to be to go to people’s doors knocking and many people in my “denomination” still want to go about things that way – it is hard to teach them that not only does that not work today, but people are so bugged by it you are more likely to push them away than anything else.

    But, it does make me able to tell (although you make so many allusions to New York anyway) that you are from the North. My Dad used to say in a restaurant, if we were waiting long for a table, he should just say, “Prayer meeting here in five minutes!” and the place would clear out. However, he said that once while visiting me in the South and I told him that the opposite would happen there. You’d have people coming in off the streets for the prayer meeting.

  171. Farid says:


    Great post. Next time get a Casa Magna Colorado Robusto made in Nicaragua. Awesome cigar!

    And please for the love of humanity, refrain from walking and puffing on a cigar – it’s not a cigarette dude.

    Those self entitled douchenozzles should go screw themselves – pardon the language.

  172. Geoduck says:

    I can understand you were pissed off at the guy, but thinking about “busting” him for carrying a bag? Geez, gender stereotypes are just as bad as ones aimed at smokers.

  173. Vincent Eagan says:

    That maybe was his point…

  174. Jed Harris says:

    This is the first of your work that I have read. I love it. Real or fake it is brilliant. I too enjoy an occasional cigar, and applaud your comparison of them to a dysfunctional ex-girlfriend. Keep up the inspiration.

  175. Miss Devylish says:

    I’m a non-smoker and can’t sit in a room where people are smoking, however, I can’t stand inconsiderate/rude/judgemental people more. I don’t even harass my good friends who smoke like that because they’ve heard it, they know it, but I would never harass a stranger for making his/her own choice. I don’t see what’s so wrong about walking down the sidewalk w/ a cigar. Personally, there’s something I like about the smell, but people are very self-righteous about smoking in general depending on which side they’re on. Not sure why other vices aren’t as bad, but smoking certainly makes people want to speak up and offer their opinions, welcome or not. Congrats on handling it so well. Love the post and your writing as usual.

  176. Kat says:

    I hold no great love for smokers, but cigar smokers don’t bother me nearly as much as cigarette smokers. Not to mention cigars actually smell good. I rarely see a cigar smoker who indulges with the same frequency as cigarette users, nor do they throw away the same amount of trash (ie, butts)all over the streets and sidewalks. You were outside, you didn’t force yourself on anyone…they approached you…so I don’t see why people rode your case so hard.

  177. L says:

    When I was in college I took an experimental college class about a 20 minute walk away from the dorms and the class would end pretty late. The area between my class and my dorm was pretty sketch and not a place you want to be at night. Normally I would walk back with some other people from class, but if none of them were there I would put my hood up and mumble to myself for the couple uber sketch blocks and no one ever approached me. The Jesus thing I will have to try.

  178. devorit@israel says:

    great written! i love to smoke and i hate that it is so annoying for others, i also hate that i am not able to smoke inside pubs or restoraunts…

  179. Joel says:

    Very funny post and most of the comments are great too! People can be jerks and they can be really nice but it’s their own decision.

    Saw several comments about those claiming to be allergic to tobacco smoke. It’s not actually possible. You may find it unpleasant or be bothered by it more than others, but you’re not allergic. Same goes for gluten. An allergy is when your body’s defenses attack yourself because of a foreign substance. Tobacco smoke is an irritant and although you have a reaction to it, that is not an allergic reaction. You’re just sensitive. Probably have the same problem with perfume scents and no one claims that’s an allergy.

  180. Carol says:

    I still like to catch just a whiff of cigarette smoke, just the slightest bit. I don’t think I miss smoking, but I do like that smell on the air.

    But now there is a move afoot to declare third-hand smoke a hazard. Yes, third-hand. I just read of this today, but apparently it’s been going on for a while. People concerned with the health of others, except for doctors and nurses, are damned frauds and wretched busybodies trying to purchase some virtue at the expense of someone else’s pleasure.

  181. Michael J. McFadden says:

    Beautifully done! 🙂

    A few brief points: 1) I tend not to like cigar smoke much, but if I’m walking behind someone and it bothered me my natural reaction would simply be to slow down or speed up for a few seconds. The idea of getting hyper-emotional about it is simply crazy. And 2) Two people here compared smoking your cigar on a sidewalk to walking up to people and “busting them in the face.” Talk about being simply crazy! 3) Joel, I believe you’re correct about allergies. For something to truly trigger an allergic reaction I believe it has to fit the profile of a certain type of protein chain or somesuch that gets destroyed in combustion. HOWEVER… it is quite possible that certain people are somewhat more sensitive to certain irritants than others. 4) GREAT article1 Passing it on to others and will be looking at your book!

    – MJM

  182. Ted King says:

    Great column. You were smoking for liberty in hostile territory.

    You might enjoy my book – The War on Smokers and the Rise of the Nanny State. I’ve posted your piece on my facebook page.

    Keep them coming!

    Ted King

  183. Anonymous says:

    New York might be hostile….but here in Ireland it is a million times worse.

  184. Reerob says:

    Astounding. The very same self-righteous people who complain about a whiff of cigar smoke have no qualms about getting tanked during happy hour and endangering lives in a far more dramatic way (behind the wheel). I know dozens of people whose lives have been seriously damaged (or teminated by alcohol). I find drunken behavior far more offensive.

    The feigned coughing fits and exaggerated fanning motions when a cigar smoker approaches seems to be the TRENDY thing to do these days (smirk).

    I do not smoke, and certainly don’t enjoy having it blown directly in my face. I am, however, intelligent enough to realize that the occasional whiff of a good cigar from a passing pedestrian will not shorten my life span.

    Unless someone lights up in an enclosed space where you are forced to inhale large quantities of smoke… mind your own business.

  185. Betty says:

    “would you like to pray with me?” – that was a killer!!…I’m looking forward to using it myself :))

  186. Tenebrae says:

    Waiter, you’re a former seminarian–isn’t it a bit sacreligious to use Jesus’ name to scare people away?

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  189. Cigar Inspector says:

    Very nice read.
    Unfortunately, the reaction of people doesn’t surprise me much. They’re so brainwashed that they don’t even think about how a few moments of second-hand smoke can affect their health (it can’t).

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  194. Amir Saarony says:

    very well written and all too true. Thanks for the knowing smile you brought to my face.

  195. CCG says:

    BWAAHAHHAHAAAA! That’s a good image… I hope you were grinning!

  196. Samantha says:

    Well sir, you are my hero.

    I’ll probably use the Jesus line now along with my
    “Can I buy you a drink?”
    “Geeze not another one, can’t be good for the baby.” -line.

  197. TCcutie says:

    I am a smoker and yes I feel that I have the right to do so. Last time i checked it is still legal since they still sell them. Mind you I respect the fact that if you have a no smoking policy I will abide such as public facilities,your home,your car. BUT when I’m outside among pollution,car,bus,truck and industry fumes and you have the audacity to confront me with snide remarks about my choice to smoke,well you can all kiss my ass and mind your own business. And that goes double for the overweight and obese people who love to preach the harmful effects of people who smoke SERIOUSLY?? Kinda the pot calling the kettle black ya think?

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