Hookah & Renaissance

I’m at place that I didn’t know was legal in the city of Colosse or the state of Delosa: A coffee and tobacco bar. Smoking has been banned from most public establishments for at least half a decade now. But here I am and here it is.

Doing a little research, there was some movement to allow for hookah places. For some reason, this was viewed differently than good old fashioned cigarettes. In an effort to be worldly and tolerant, the city chose to allow it. But not cigarettes. That was, apparently a bridge too far. Treating cigarettes as being particularly pernicious as far as tobacco goes is nothing new, of course. But the frame of mind is striking and a reminder that smoker demographics is at least partially a driver behind anti-smoking regs. It’s one thing to tell the imagined stereotypical smoker to beat it, but some of the same people that are more than happy to do that feel kind of bad when it starts seeming intolerant towards other cultures. I still need to write my extended piece on smoking policy, but that’ll have to wait.

Anyhow, it didn’t take long before they decided “okay, we’ll go ahead and let people smoke cigarettes within these small parameters, too. Smoking (cigarettes or otherwise) in tobacco shops was legal, but until recently it was not allowed in places that sold other things (such as alcohol or, in this case, coffee).

It’s actually kind of a neat atmosphere here. You have a fair number of South Asians and Middle Easterners (“Sammies”) here (the Mayne area having notable populations of each). A girl in front of me is playing the violin. A few stoner kids (18, I would assume) are sharing a hookah to my right. At the “bar” area are some good ole boys. The last time I was here there was a black man chatting with them. The Sammies are half-cigarette, half-hookah smokers. The guys at the bar or cigarettes. Periodically a couple middle aged guys come in with (or buy from the store) cigars.

You could totally use this place as a setting for a Cheers-like program, if you could get Lowe’s to keep from pulling its advertisements.

Anyhow, this reminds me of one of the things that really is remarkable about smoking in this country, at least historically: it manages to bring people from all sorts of walks of like together. In a lung-destructive way, to be sure, but in a way that few other things due. And anti-smoking regs helped put all of these people together. A CEO smoking side-by-side with dockworker. Good Ole Boys at the bar talking to young Indian-American men at the table, in this case.

It’s something we’re losing, of course, as tobacco use gets a class marker. Eventually it will be more like Deseret, where the smoker’s circle consisted mostly of the insurgent non-LDS population. Even there, you had born-against next to atheists. But in Deseret, as long as you’re not a Mormon, you have something significant in common with everybody who isn’t a Mormon (even if some of them believe that others of them are hell-bound). But this represents a renaissance of sorts. The CEO long left the smokers’ dock at my former employer. Smoking (cigarettes) increasingly becomes something poor people do. But maybe hookah will provide something people are more reluctant to criticize so acrimoniously.

Postscript: The funny thing is that I am not here because it is a “smoking coffee shop,” but rather because it has better coffee than the other place and much, much better hours (fantastic hours for suburbia). Even here, I go outside to smoke. I’ve apparently been conditioned against smoking indoors even where it is allowed. Actual bars may be an exception, and I would make an exception if it were a hundred degrees or zero degrees outside. But it’s pleasant out. And maybe bad weather wouldn’t make a difference. Yesterday I smoked outside in the rain under the insufficient canopy outside.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


    • I don’t really know, but I would be surprised if it were appreciably different. The “health benefit” of hookah is supposed to be (aside from some of the lack of chemicals, which would probably start going into hookah if it every became sufficiently popular) that the smoke is cooled and therefore less harsh on the lungs. I’d imagine the difference would be decreased with second-hand, since the damage of second-hand is chemical and not chemical+heat.

      This is all based on my relatively limited understanding.

  1. Will, I took the liberty of fixing what looked like a broken HTML tag in your second paragraph of this quite enjoyable post.

    I’ve always envied smokers the social lubrication that the shared act of ingesting tobacco provides. “Got a light?” was at one time a thoroughly acceptable way to break the ice with a potential romantic partner, one which has no real equivalent in today’s much more smokeless world.

    • Yeah, it is a shame that it is/was all built on poison. Not just the “got a light” question, but also the whole being forced to spend time with strangers in a context where it’s natural to start talking to them. It was actually that context that really helped me get over my transgenderphobia. Back in college, it gave me an opportunity to get to know and get a chance at a girl notably out of my league.

      I wish there was a way to do this without the whole poison thing.

  2. I’m back in Ataturk. A conversation about politics broke out and I found a common denominator: everyone here loves Ron Paul. The richie little white girl, the three or four black guys (who are being really, really rough on Obama), the two sammies, and the good ole boy at the bar. Three of us aren’t saying anything, so I assume that we are the only dissenters.

    I found a similar hookah establishment in a neighboring town. It’s name has the word “Hippie” in it. Paul might be less popular over there.

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