Nonwaiting nonsmokers

Jan. 6, 2003, midnight | By Stephen Wertheim | 18 years ago

I went into a restaurant the other day. There was a wait for a nonsmoking table. Naturally, I asked, "Do you have anything in smoking?" They did.

And I'm thinking about the choice I've made. Which is this: "Forget the risk of my hastened demise, I'm kind of hungry. My slight hunger far outweighs my aversion to this fuming death camp, which I nevertheless could avoid by waiting five minutes, which I refuse to do."

That's one of these weird unconscious ways we prioritize things.

Now sometimes, before being seated, hungry nonsmokers will pop their head inside the smoking section to see if it's too smoky. This seems like a good solution. But you're really saying, "Yeah, I don't smell too much death here, I smell only a little death, we'll take it."

I think that happens frequently, because whenever I'm in the smoking section, I notice many people are not, in fact, smoking. They're just like me, nonsmokers who don't want to wait. Therefore, what restaurants need is a third section—a section for nonsmokers willing to sit in smoking, but a section in which smoking is not actually allowed.

All this would have to be communicated very subtly to the maitre d'.

"A ten-minute wait for nonsmoking, is there?"


"Oh. Well then, I'll take something in"—WINK—"smoking."

"Tell me if I understand you, sir. You want something in"—COUGH—"smoking."

"No, no, not something in"—COUGH—"smoking. I want something in"—WINK—"smoking."

"Let me show you to your table."

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Stephen Wertheim. Co-editor-in-chief Stephen Wertheim is deeply committed to reporting, even when it conflicts with such essential life activities as food consumption, sleep and viewership of Seinfeld reruns. In addition to getting carried away with writing and playing violin, Stephen thoroughly enjoys visiting and photographing spots around … More »

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