Smoking At Airport Colonies

Let me start this with a slogan: Smokers of the world, Unite!

Every time I pass by the Frankfurt airport I have to visit the smoking cabin (more of a jail cell) and meet interesting people who seem to be avenging themselves for not being allowed to smoke elsewhere.

In the cell, a sticker reads: Rauchen kann tödlich sein. Translation: smoking can kill you—the only German sentence that can be properly translated into English. Direct translation would read: You smoking cigarettes can kill!

All right… it is not as bad as in Australia where packets do not carry the usual branding. The brand is written at the bottom of the pack. The front and back carry harrowing images of cancerous body parts, images fit for a horror movie Ad. People slide business cards under the transparent foil to cover the tasteless images. Still, cigarettes cost four-times their price in the USA. Why should Australian smokers pay insurance? The cigarette taxes they pay should be enough to cover them even if they want Botox and other fanciful cosmetic surgery.

I don’t know much about Italian airports; last month I arrived at Bologna after five O’clock and everybody had gone home for the day, including the customs officers. You just disembark and walk out to the bus. On my return, I didn’t have time, I walked straight to the airplane and I didn’t see much of the airport. But though not as bad as the Australians, the Italians fill half the ciggarette packets with bold letter, “Il fumo danneggia gravemente te e chi tis ta intorno.” Simple translation: Be scared of cigarettes!

The Brussels airport? In the future, I’ll avoid it as much as I can; think of walking for twenty minutes underground through endless passages to reach the gate for a connecting flight! If the airport doesn’t have a smoking lounge, the Belgians must be brought to The Hague to be sentenced.

At the Dulles airport terminal in Washington DC, they have a larger smoking room—five times the cells in Frankfurt. It is located in the far end of the terminal and one would feel walking to downtown DC on foot is easier than walking to that place… but luckily, there are so many Ethiopian employees at the airport, eavesdropping on the conversation among the employees makes it lighter. For some reason, the Ethiopian employees take liberty in discussing their issues, some very intimate, loudly; maybe they do not think anyone understands their language. Maybe they don’t expect someone who understands Amharic to be around.

At the Denver airport, the authorities (God bless their heart) have allowed for some freedom of choice. They have allowed a smoking bar at the second floor—all you need to do is buy a drink. Sure, that is easy. And the place is not full of stiff patrons who give you faces; for some reason it is full of tattooed people and many others with cowboy hats. They just smoke to their heart’s content and puff out heavy smoke.

In Californian airports, well. If you ask for a smoking area, the employees report you to a mental hospital… If you light up, they hang you up.

One time I went to San-Francisco to meet someone at his office…it was too early and I decided to wait in a coffee shop across the street full of hippie types. I lighted a cigarette and they gave me dirty looks. I murmured, “C’mon, I am not smoking Hashish!”

Minutes later another crowd appeared from the corner and the group joined them. They carried demonstration placards and began to chant: Legalize marijuana! What? They were giving me dirty looks for a cigarette and they want to legalize marijuana? I didn’t have the courage to call them Hypocrites.

In the town where I live, the lady at the Chevron station store insists that I show her my ID card before she gives me the pack—she thinks I am under 21. It would be flattering if I didn’t think it was foolish. “I have instructions to ask for ID from anyone,” she explains. A sticker on her cash register reads, ‘If you are under 35, show your ID.” Or something like that. Ok, I am way beyond 35, but she insists. Then she asks me what year I was born, and I say, “I was born in 1911.” She enters that on the machine. Would a one-hundred-and-two year old man stand in front of her and argue? The poor worker is trained not to use her judgment, but to go by the book that some retard wrote sitting in a corporate office.

Then a friend suggests I watch ‘Mad Men’ on Netflex; I watched two episodes and hated myself. At the same time I remembered sitting on the back rows of a Saudi Airlines where one could not see the person sitting close to him while swimming in thick smoke.

In Addis Ababa Bole airport, (that is Ethiopia, just in case) you light up and talk to the immigration officer through the smoke that you and the officer puff. Outside, you buy cigarettes from ten-year olds.

In the Middle East, as in most of Africa, you light up at restaurants, taxis, and the airport lounges and no one would even notice—you would look odd if you didn’t smoke. If you do not light up in Dubai, it’s likely people would wonder: what is wrong with him, nothing between his lips! Wesh belaak! Ma tdekhin? If you misplace your lighter, ask any employee for one—the immigration officer, the sweepers, and guest receivers—I bet you nine-out of ten people carry lighters.

In my house, the California virus has stung my wife, I sit at the balcony regardless of cold or hot weather… and rain.

All that oppression makes one smoke twice as much; do you think cigarette prohibition works? The alcohol PROHIBITION of the thirties didn’t. And there is no stinking smell worse than the taste of beer—you are better off licking an ashtray!

Now you can imagine how many cigarettes a writer smokes when they write! I do mine at the balcony … and sometimes at Starbucks… 20 feet away from the entrance.

At any rate, I intend to quit smoking one new-year, it is my resolution. I advise you to quit smoking … maybe you would want to try electronic cigarettes… and then, please tell me if it works.

NB: this article is a revised version of what appeared in my blog a couple of days ago.

Saleh “Gadi” Johar
Miriam Was Here


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