January 29, 2009

The Smokers at Dinner

Those who don't smoke tend to hate smoking. those who do smoke tend to love smoking. and never the twain shall meet, that is until you quit. 

there is a lot to talk about in terms of smoking etiquette and none of it has to do with health. so excuse this blog. it's purely an exercise in rationalizing -- which is what smoking is all about.

you're at dinner waiting for the apps; a second round of drinks has come and gone; you're dying for a smoke but at least one member of the dinner will be annoyed if you get up and go outside, what do you do? 

my rule is if there aren't enough people at the table to stay occupied without your presence than you can't go. that's not to say, well there are two non-smokers so it's ok. you generally shouldn't interrupt a meal to indulge your habit. in fact i'd go so far as to say it's rude to leave unless you're demanded outside or the entire party is ok with smoking.

while i said this blog wouldn't be about the stupidity of smoking or the health concerns associated with it, i would be remiss not to mention that undoubtedly people care about you and don't want you to die, so when you get up and leave the table they have no choice but to think about your mortality -- which should be off the preverbal dinner table. 

it's annoying to non-smokers to have you leave because while they too could engage in private conversations while you're gone, you are choosing to have your conversations elsewhere, at least for the time being. when you smoke this isn't what your thinking. your brain has simply felt the sensation and wants to retreat. you're encouraged by the other smokers at the table who also want to partake. however, it's understandable that those left at the table feel left out.

there was great "friends" episode where rachel wants to get into her bosses good graces. her boss smoked and her co-worker smoked. she always felt left out when they disappeared to the back alley and puffed away, gossiping the whole time about office politics. so she took up smoking. she then convinced them to quit, hoping it would put an end to the dynamic. it didn't and true to form hilarity ensued. 

the difference is that you don't live in ny, hang out at a coffee shop, live in a ridiculous apartment without anyone really knowing how you earn any money -- you don't live in tv land and there's nothing funny about you leaving the table. if you want to have a smoke so badly that you can't wait until the end of the meal then you really, really need to quit. no one will appreciate the sacrifice more than your dinner guests. no one is saying that's an easy or even likely answer to your addiction, but you should be aware that you are being rude by leaving the meal to indulge yourself.

next time your smoking buddy nudges you and says, "hey wanna go out for a smoke?" take a look around and decide if anyone would be upset by your absence. you're doing everyone a favor.

you wouldn't want to be left out so don't make others feel they are. 


  1. My wife and I are smokers. My future sister-in-law-to-be carries a portable air purifier around with her: she is very fearful of second hand smoke. My brother and future sister-in-law-to-be have hinted at coming over to our house, because my wife is a gourmet cook; however, I will never break bread with people who expect to chow down at our expense and prohibit us from smoking. I would never go over to her house and smoke, but since she doesn't cook either, it will never be an issue.

  2. I sure do hope the smokers read this column. Some think nothing of leaving their guests at the dinner table to go outside and puff for 30 minutes.

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