Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Butting out

Today I was standing on the corner of Yonge and Eglinton waiting to cross to get to the grocery store when I was hit by a big puff of cigarette smoke.  The smoker, having finished exhaling all over the crowd on the corner, tossed the butt of their cigarette down onto the street and wandered away.  My first thought was to bend down, scoop up the butt and flick it into the smoker's forehead while delivering a savage lecture on not being an asshole but instead I just crossed the street and grumbled bitterly.

My internal impulse to freak out on jackasses is something I call Angry Man.  Angry Man has lots of things to say about the world and letting him show me visions of blood and vengeance is an entertaining pastime but I virtually never get to the point where I actually do what he says.  He often encourages me to get into dramatic confrontations and assures me that although I am pretty worthless in a real fight I am a big guy and if I look berserk enough nobody will actually put the matter of who can beat up who to a test.

Angry Man tells me that when we finish with saying Grace at Thanksgiving dinner I should follow up with

"Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I
say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have
done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not
forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible
benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I
ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may
be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in
my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may
not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your
receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and
which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen."

[Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness]

Or potentially an even more belligerent option that doesn't bother with the sarcastic agnosticism.  Generally I end up just sitting through it stewing though since I don't want to cause even more fights than are usual for this particular event. (Note that the fights rarely start with me!)  A much better option has been suggested to me, which is simply to refuse to speak or in any way take part in Grace.  This option was heartily seconded by my internal Clever Man, who appreciates solutions that don't create more problems than they solve.

Unfortunately Clever Man doesn't have any ideas for dealing with highly inconsiderate smokers in public.  I can always ignore them as people mostly do but then the behaviour isn't going to change as I am implicitly suggesting that it isn't a problem by standing there being a silent witness.  Anyone have any good suggestions for Clever Man to second?  Angry Man hasn't come up with anything Clever Man is willing to buy into.

"Oh, don't worry about that butt, I will just put it out and take it to an appropriate receptacle.  Too bad your legs are broken and you can't do that yourself."

"You seem to have dropped this but I am happy to return it to you.  I bet there is a good place for you to put it nearby, otherwise you wouldn't have smoked it, right?"

"I hate you."

"You are under a Citizen's Arrest!"


  1. Wait, so Angry Man is really Ziggyny using some kind of mind meld on me? Zounds!

  2. I often dream of walking up to smokers with their dropped butts and saying politely, "Pardon me. I think that you dropped this". I have yet to follow through though.

    A suggestion for thanksgiving grace that I think might go over well. After grace is performed, say to the group, "All of you know that I'm not a believer, but I just wanted to tell all of you how grateful and thankful I am to have each of you as part of my life and as part of my family's life. You're all really kind and wonderful people and I feel very fortunate to be able to share this holiday and this meal with you." It's a total win. You remind everyone (and Elli) that you don't buy in to the whole theist thing but that despite that you are still a nice, kind, loving, appreciative, person.


  3. That could work, but it doesn't feel like that is a permanent solution unless I do this every time. If so I think I would prefer the approach of insisting on a nonreligious version of Grace instead. I don't especially like the nonreligious Grace rites anyway though...

    I don't object to it but it doesn't feel like a long term solution that really does all that I want.

  4. When you're eating at some else's house you have to go with whatever Grace is good with them. When you're the host you can start making demands. At least that's the view from here.

  5. Fair enough, but how do you respond to Grace being said at restaurants, at your own house, or at houses where the owners aren't religious but some of the attendees are?

  6. I think the host gets to pick. Religious attendees to your parties can pray to themselves, or squeeze hands with each other, or whatever floats their boat. As for restaurants.....same deal. Do your own thing privately.