Unlucky strike: I really had to smoke those nice people out
This is why I smoked a cigarette on Sunday morning when it was the very last thing I wanted to do
It has been a number of years since I had a cigarette. I was never a committed smoker – I find it hard to form habits, either good or bad – and some years ago my partner was trying to give up so I stopped too and sort of lost the taste for it. Now it seems an odd thing to do, neither enjoyable nor particularly cool, more nauseous than naughty, but this story is by way of explaining why I smoked a cigarette on Sunday morning when it was the very last thing I wanted to do.
On Saturday night I went to a wedding on the island of Cyprus. It was twinkly and lovely and outdoors with the sound of the ocean distantly through the pine trees, but I didn’t really know anyone there. I was seated at a long table between two strangers. One was a Palestinian industrial designer who lives in Montreal. Oscar Wilde once defined a bore as someone who, when you ask how they are, tells you, but that is only because he never made the mistake of idly asking the stranger beside him at a wedding what an industrial designer does.
Finally, I managed to break the death grip of that conversation and turned to my right. She was a Swede who has lived in New York for 16 years and runs suicide prevention courses for teens in Australia. By now I was now an older and wiser man, so I refrained from asking more, although I did wonder aloud about the wisdom of interfering with nature’s way of controlling the number of Australians in the world. She didn’t find this funny.By this stage I figured I’d done about as much as I could do to keep the conversational flag of my table flying, so I stared out thoughtfully into the hot Cypriot night and solemnly chewed my charcoal-grilled chicken. Say what you like about Cyps, they have a way with a bird.But my neighbour wasn’t done. She informed me she has been single, lo these many years. I made a sympathetic clucking sound, but I wasn’t surprised. A chap makes a perfectly good joke about suicidal teens, and all you can do is scowl and say: “That’s not funny”? You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, lady.Apparently, my silence encouraged her, because she went on to explain that she regularly went on dates but nothing ever came of any of them, and did I know why? I gave that some thought. We’re all here for one another, and if a person asks, you should help as best you can.“Well,” I said, “maybe at first you come across as a little abrasive.”..