It’s the early evening and I’m on the train home. Two guys in their late teens sit behind me. They’re having a profound conversation about parties and underage hangovers. “Eww, someone was smoking,” one says and shoots a very angry look at me, something only my grandma would do back home.
But, yes, I am discovered. I started smoking again. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but I can’t really claim bragging rights for most of my habits. Smoking, however, is something severely frowned upon on the West coast. So much actually, that it makes me feel like a rebel. One whose only cause is stress-related hedonism.
It’s a transatlantic sin. Back home in Bulgaria, people are ready to unite and protest every time the Parliament decides to push through another law to regulate smoking in public places. Here, it’s a whole different matter. But let’s say that in Boston my status falls somewhere between “rebel” and “skank,” depending on a person’s level of tolerance. And while “back home” has become my mantra, I’m actually wondering whether all negative reactions aren’t actually pretty positive.
Let’s make something clear, I’m Balkanly stubborn, meaning someone scolding me won’t make me stop doing whatever I’m doing. But in the U.S., anti-tobacco advertising has been so incredibly successful over the past couple of decades, that people would actually dislike you for that. To quote some statistics, about 20 percent of the adult population in the U.S. smokes, as opposed to the stunning 50 percent in Bulgaria (which I’m sure applies to the whole of the peninsula too actually, and may even be dramatically higher in Prishtina). So some 30 percent stand between me being annoying because I want to sit at a smokers’ table, and commit a sin of Biblical proportions.
Well, fewer regulations do lead to people being less judgmental, I guess. But also we’re not very big on doing justice to the plethora of laws we do have, so while “back home” I’m a regular Sue, here I’m a freaking anarchist who’s trying to bring down the established system of norms. Or something. The link between being respectful toward the laws of your country and being politically adequate is, hopefully, obvious. And I dare say that not only do we not care about abiding by our laws, we don’t even care enough to know them.
Politically, we’re just as active as we are morally. The youth of your region is deeply preoccupied with complaining about the changes that need to be made and the amends we all have to contribute to, but let me ask all of you smokers out there: How many times have you sat at a table with a non-smoking sign and tried to ask for an ashtray? And also, how many times did you see a table with a no-smoking sign and an ashtray on top of it, and did not complain or alert the authorities, but just rejoiced on the inside as you looked for your cigs?
It’s a judgment-call thing. And we’re all too Balkanly frivolous to think laws apply to us, and we could care less about our health or about others around us when we smoke. Because we proudly live by the motto, “Look at all the fucks I do not give.” Which, I confess, is also why I absolutely can’t accept random people on public transportation commenting on my choice to kill myself with nicotine. Because I mostly don’t care enough to turn around and tell them off for getting drunk at frat parties. And I’m sure, neither would you.
I’m a smoker without a cause. I abide by my own laws and in the country of Sue it’s me who matters. I blame no one because I’m sure it was my surroundings that played an epic part in my self-proclaimed anarchism, but I was casted in the the main role anyways. So, here’s my state, within a country, corrupted by nicotine, just like my “back home” is corrupted by public apathy. Because we’re too cool to care that 30 percent of our pregnant women smoke. We’ve a license to be unconcerned.
The article was originally written in English.
Illustration: Max Adeev (thumbnail) & Heiko Dreher
The views, opinions and comments published on this BLOG are not necessarily those of the Kosovo 2.0 editorial staff. Also, the website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted on the blog stories. All comments that incite and encourage hate speech or discrimination will be moderated.