Saturday, 4 December 2010

Smoking the Streets


Casual conversations with colleagues can be very revealing of the human animal. Like this last week, having a nicotine break with some of my co-workers, I got somehow sucked into an argument which started something like this:

"You don't actually use the ashtray in your car, do you?"

While not directed at me, I answered that I did, in fact, use the ashtray in my car. It gets emptied out into a bag every so often and binned with the rest of the non-organic rubbish from our household - so evidently, my stompies were ending up, when all is said and done, in the same place as those which get tossed out of windows on the move do.

And yes, smoking is not the healthiest thing I could be doing - for myself or those around me - but  leaving aside the question of massive industrial and agricultural and chemical pollution of the environment, which is demonstrably orders of magnitude more harmful than tobacco smoking, this sort of err...debate shines a light on how human animals think.

See, many smokers would prefer to toss their used cigarettes out of the car, rather than have them ground out in the ashtray, as this might lead other people to think that the smoker was a filthy, disgusting human being.

Being a biker of many years' standing, I have a bit of a personal stake in this argument. A hot coal is not something you'd ever want to wind up in your helmet or your riding suit, believe me. But it's the relative importance of the personal which is revealed here that makes it such a fascinating topic.

Clearly, what other people think of the inside of the smoker's car, and by extension of the smoker hirself, is much more important than possibly causing great harm to a fellow human animal - or non-human animal, come to that.

One of the great joys, to me, of growing older and growing up a bit has been the lack of concern over what other people think of me. When I say "I don't care what others think about me" I don't mean it as a throwaway line signifying relative personal liberation from the culture - although it's that, too. I mean I don't care what opinions other humans may hold of me. It doesn't inform my thinking, my choices, or the way I present myself. You see, I'm not important here. The planet is. Life is. Even other human animals are.

Pic: A Smoking Street in Oz