Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:19 AM
I have such tunnel vision on my walks to and from the metro on workdays that one might think I’m wearing horse blinders. However, this does not prevent me from making eye contact and nodding passing greetings to people who come into view.
“Passing” is the operative word here. Because no matter the person (i.e., how intriguing or inviting the woman), I literally had never stopped to chat with a stranger on these walks … until yesterday morning. And the reason will probably reveal far more about me than I intend.
I was about 100 yards from the metro when I noticed a woman standing outside an office building about 15 yards ahead. She stood out – not only because she looked like she was posing for a sunrise fashion shoot, but, more to the point, because she was drawing on a cigarette as if she were trying to get to the butt as quickly as possible.
I should note here that I’m an unqualified libertarian. Which means that I believe anyone (of age) should be allowed to do anything as long as it does not interfere with anyone else’s quiet enjoyment of life. So, even though a personal turn off, that she was smoking did not matter to me.
Except that here’s what happened as I approached: We made eye contact about 10 yards away and, intriguingly enough, she did not avert her eyes (as most women would) if only out of nurtured coquettishness. Moreover, in what appeared to be slow-motion action, she took one last, long draw on her cigarette, returned my courteous good-morning nod with a come-hither look, and flipped her cigarette butt just inches from my feet.
I couldn’t resist. I said, “You know, I could have you arrested.” Blissfully clueless (and perhaps betraying more than she realized), she exclaimed, “You don’t think I’m a prostitute, do you?!” “No, just a litterbug,” I replied.
At which point her “Kool” affectation morphed into a solicitous and earnest explanation (rife with ironies) on what a committed environmentalist she is and how “nobody thinks that’s littering.” I listened patiently, affecting what I hope was a somewhat sympathetic countenance. When she finished, I countered as follows:
You’re right, many people see nothing wrong with dumping their cigarette butts on sidewalks. As an environmentalist though can you explain what distinguishes a woman like you who does so from one who dumps the wrapper from her chewing gum in similar fashion?
Remarkably, a light bulb seemed to go on in her head. And, after an awkward silence, she muttered a few words, but they were completely incomprehensible. I wished her a good day and went on my way….
But here’s to that light bulb going on in the heads of all die-hard smokers out there who are littering sidewalks with cigarette butts as if they were autumn leaves falling from trees.