Light up

The line at Mini Stop was long, partly because it was eight o'clock and people are grabbing stuff to munch while pretending to work, and partly because the cashier was taking a while to... taking a while to do something.

The guy in front of me suddenly turns in my direction. He looks uncomfortable. Pained, even. It's like he's trying to keep something in, but he couldn't - and yes, I know what that suggests.

"Nagbebenta ba sila ng yosi dito?" he asks me.

Is that the face a guy who badly wants to smoke makes? I thought, in that split second before he spits out his last word and I spit out mine.

"Oo," I said.

What I should have said was "hindi ko alam, hindi kasi ako nagyoyosi." One, I could not resist being a jackass at that point, more so because his face was so squirmy. Two, I really wouldn't know, because I have never bought a cigarette for myself. (Yes, I have bought cigarettes before, many times, many, many times, for my mother, who needs it to, well, poop. I don't know the science behind that either.)

"Ah," the squirmy guy said. "Pero discreet?"

It's not as if Pasig City has banned selling cigarettes outright. Nobody can do that. That would never fly. What they have banned, however, is smoking in obviously public places. Several buildings around Ortigas have put up similar-looking signs that say "smoking 100% not allowed in [name of building]", which is good news for a guy like me, who absolutely hates having to walk through in sidewalks where people smoke.

I mean, of course, I could avoid them, but there really is no way. My office building's back entrance leads to some sort of plaza, an open space where employees come out to blow some smoke or something. (Further proof that I do not smoke: I have no proper metaphors for "taking a cigarette" that does not imply drug use.) There are two open parking lots nearby, and then there's the sidewalk. And all of those places are filled with smokers at lunch time, which makes my walk to the nearby carinderia quite an ordeal.

Sometimes, I really wish some city mayor would ban smoking in sidewalks outright. One, it's arguably a public area. Two, you can also contend that the smoke cigarettes produce is a hindrance to whoever walks by, not to mention a nuisance. Only you get to taste the so-called flavor of a cigarette; all we smell is the odor of burnt leaves that clings to our clothes and the hairs of our noses. It leaves the majority of non-smokers in a potentially awkward position, or at least, a mood-altering one. Not everybody likes the smell of cigarettes, so why allow a small subset of people to use it in places where the majority flock as well? Why allow it on sidewalks?

Of course, there's the matter of whether it will be implemented properly, whether anybody will be apprehended for lighting up (now there's a metaphor) on the sidewalk. Our building has had that sign on the back entrance for months now - it's a city ordinance, ostensibly to promote good health and environmental protection - but all it did was get the smokers out of the plaza and towards the sidewalk, and the sidewalk in front of the building at that. No shit, my walk is still, well, shit.

A few weeks back more "no smoking" signs came up, this time at the sidewalk beside the smaller, more makeshift parking lot nearby. My building's security guards, to their credit, are active in implementing that policy. Someone attempted to light up and one of the guards walked all the way to her to say that, no, you can't light up here. He then pointed her to the corner. Still a sidewalk.

As for the rest of the smokers, well, they're now smoking inside the parking lots themselves.

"Hindi naman," I told the squirmy guy at Mini Stop earlier, before pointing, sort of, at the cashier, where cigarette lighters are prominently displayed. I wanted to call him stupid, but he already looks stupid at that point, because his face was all, like, I need a fucking cigarette now! and I'm laughing maniacally inside because I do not have to be in that awkward situation where I need mentholated smoke going through my lungs. As if car exhaust doesn't do the job. And a piece of what I still call Storck, too.

His turn came, and he bought a box of Winstons, which the cashier pulled out from behind the counter.

I'm glad Rainy does not smoke.

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