These days, in the country I’m living in, smoking seems to be outdated.
Outlawed it is for certain.
Banned from public buildings, banned from railway stations, banned from pubs and restaurants, banned from offices: being a smoker now makes you an outcast. The Apartheid regime for smokers that has been installed has increased the bonds between the stubborn diehards who stick to their habits, be it out of principle or because of severe addiction.
Yet crossing the chasm and reaching out a hand to the non smoking community is not appreciated, not at all. Conversion is an absolute prerequisite, before social interaction and normal relationships can be restored.
After all, smokers are not only ruining their own body, whilst simultaneously ruining the social welfare system with the cost for the treatment of their lung cancers.
Their acts are also selfish to the extreme, putting other people’s health at risk for the temporary satisfaction of their filthy cravings. Second-hand smoking is almost as deadly as the real thing, without having chosen for it and also without having the pleasurable side effects from it.
Factories, air planes, cars; those aren’t vilified as badly as smokers are, though they are certainly accomplices, if not the main culprits, in the criminal decline of air quality and ensuing pulmonary diseases.
So smokers have become a minority. Some even claim the smoking population to be on the brink of extermination, as older smokers pass away, some cease to smoke and less and less youngsters join.
Street cleaners picking up the uncountable cigarette butts, littering pavements for so many years – another cost the community had to bear – are rapidly becoming a sight from the past.
Being old myself, having passed the half century milestone already, I naturally resist change and cling on to the traditions of the past.
And while I’ve always disliked the taste and smell of cigarettes, the beleaguered condition of smokers has somewhat saddened me.
For I am a smoker myself and have been so for the past thirty years.
I’ve always liked to think of myself as an upper class or premium smoker.
I only occasionally smoke cigars, but I regularly smoke pipe. What else could be more fitting for a Belgian?
It definitely suits the current atmosphere of intolerance that characterises this age so well. Walking the streets and the parks has become a surrealistic experience, feeling isolated by my uniqueness, being completely ignored as a hopeless case or being looked upon with either peevish or wary looks.
I may be fooling myself, yet at times I also imagine myself sensing cold hatred, yearning jealousy, lewd regret, and even warm admiration.
Thus, as a dinosaur, as a living relic, I walk the streets, cherishing the thought that my act of pipe smoking may serve as an admonishment, an encouragement and as a nostalgic reminiscence.
As a smoker, I may have been outlawed.
I may seem outdated.
But outmanoeuvred, I am most certainly not.