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Smokers, cell phones, and noise, let fly
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
November 5, 2005
There I said it. It needed to be said, and I said it. Cigarette smokers are the most socially inconsiderate people on the planet. As sexy as an ashtray, and just as wise, it's ironic most smokers reject ashtrays, choosing instead to litter like Hansel and Gretel discarding bread crumbs.
It's really quite simple. Cigarette smokers pollute because cigarettes are pollution. Therefore, on the sidewalk, in the ocean, or stored in landfills, Cigarette butts are pollution. Prompting this observation was seeing a popular sidewalk café be blighted by smokers and the mess they make.
We have all seen it, sitting in traffic, or flying down the freeway, when the car in front of you launches the remnants of a lit cigarette into the environment. How about the diva that takes a last drag on a cancer stick before casually flicking it away for others to deal with. Why do smokers feel they have special license to litter?
It is not surprising smokers would hold the public space in such low regard. After all, anyone willing to coat their lungs with tar and nicotine on a continuous basis can hardly be expected to clean up after himself, or respect the well being of others.
Smoking is an ugly habit, so is gorging on Big Macs. Say your standing waiting in line for a movie. Do you let your friends just toss their Mc Garbage to the ground? Do you say anything? What about when a friend tosses his butt to the pavement? Imagine if the majority of Big Mac wrappers were treated like cigarette butts. Ugly huh?
Personally? I think it is time for non-smokers to shame smokers from the public space, for both health and environmental reasons. There is also the issue of public health costs associated with cigarette-induced suicide, and the fact smokers refuse to clean up after themselves.
Banning smoking from public buildings is not enough, cigarettes should be banned from the realm of social respectability, and treated as the moral equivalent of habitual flatulence and Klan rallies.
Coming in second behind the plague of inconsiderate smokers on the list of public nightmares is the inconsiderate cell phone user. These annoying monkeys come in all shapes and from all socioeconomic circumstances. My least favorite behavior associated cell phone junkies is the practice of driving themselves to distraction. Mobile hazards, cell users are a threat to themselves and others. There should be a law against dialing while driving. I mean really.
When not behind the wheel of an SUV, cell people have the annoying habit of sharing their conversation with everyone in shouting distance. An obvious cry for help, gratuitous cell phone use is a reflection of personal insecurities. When was the last time a stranger tried to impress you with a one-sided phone conversation while waiting in line at the supermarket, or listened to a drama unfold across the isle from you while trying to enjoy breakfast?
Adding to the annoyance factor, we now have the pleasure of being treated to a cacophony of ring tones. Personalized noise pollution when a simple ring won't do, cell people invest heavily in being noticed. Freud would have a field day.
Another form of social retardation is evidenced in the antisocial behavior of the excessive volume "hear me roar" crowd. Boom boxes, car stereo, televisions, and even cell phones can be the weapon of choice. Just because Momma Cass Elliot gave us permission to make our own kind of music, it doesn't give you the right to share it with others. Loud motorcycles also fall into this category.
Civilization depends on individuals recognizing social etiquette, without it, the public space would be a constant struggle between competing self-interests. Over the years, most humans have arrived at a tacit understanding, requiring individuals to play well with others.
Littering the planet with cigarette butts is not playing well with others. Using your cell phone like you're the only one left on Earth is not polite behavior, nor is adding to the general level of noise pollution. As California's population rises, tempers will shorten, and social tensions will increase, it is up to everyone to reacquaint themselves with the work of Miss Manners, Aristotle, and Immanuel Kant.
Without a commitment to considerate treatment of the commons and those we share it with, our environment would be little more than a noisy landfill of knee deep in cigarettes butts.