Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Conversation over dinner in Brussels grew tense when talk veered towards the recently proposed and highly controversial ban on smoking cigarettes in the van, slated to take effect upon our return to America tomorrow. The pro-smoking side argues that the intervals between stops for defecation, refueling, and/or snacks in American travel, vastly longer than European intervals, pose an unreasonable obstacle for even the most iron-willed nic-head. It is unreasonable, they argue, that any smoker be asked to hold out for what often turns out to be three hours or more. Additionally, for those who do not know the joys of constant smoking, there is no way to comprehend the pleasure; thus any such ban would be solipsistic, and what’s more, selfish.

The no smoking team argues these points. In the van, smoke is subject to no barriers—even the most diligent window wafter is fated to smoke out the entire van. Van smoking is thus in violation of the Personal Spaces Act of 2008, wherein Graetzer, Cedermark et al., backed by band majority, ruled that anyone can do whatever they want within a reasonable personal space in the van, so long as it does not impinge upon the well-being, emotional or otherwise, of any other member of Titus Andronicus. Non-smokers thus posit that van smoking should have ceased with the passage of that Act, along with deep flatulence, very loud headphone volumes, and “close talking.”


The smokers retort that any prohibition on van smoking will be similarly in violation of the Personal Spaces Act for burden it places upon their personal space. A smoking ban limits activity of someone else in the Personal Space, which, for a person in his own space, is an ungovernable sector for he who honors the limits of his own boundaries. After all, it is the smoke and not the smoker that invades the personal space of another; the smoke and not the smoker.
Touché, I guess. And then the no-smokers argue that there are special circumstances.

One needs look no further than Eric Harm’s medical records to see that he is an asthmatic, and so has more to lose than your garden variety smoker has to gain from smoking whensoever he pleases. This dark reality is compounded by the fact that he is The Drummer. Keeping Eric healthy means playing better shows, which creates more money with which smokers may buy, and subsequently smoke, more cigarettes. (So long as they do not smoke them in the van.) His thoracic and cardiovascular healths are ipso facto the band’s backbone, or for those of you logged in south of the border, its cajones. But others in this camp argue that it is not entirely about Eric, the guy who likes to scratch his balls and in fact lies doing so beside me in a cheap motel as I write this, scratch scratch, but about manners that ought to be upheld pro forma. After all, non-smoking is normative.

Or is it? Now we find ourselves at a deep philosophical impasse. J. S. Mill does not mentions this. The demands of each group burden the others within their personal spaces. Yet both the smokers and the non-smokers believe themselves to be the normative group. For smokers, smoking was once a choice but now occupies the nebulous ground between want and need that is psychological addiction. Within their paradigm, addiction shifts the foundation of normativity to include smoking as a basic need. To their thinking, non-smokers must allow this fundamental, or now-fundamental, need at whatever cost. Whereas non-smokers argue not smoking is normative because, first, no nicotine addiction drawn upon the tabula rasa, and in this day and age more people don’t than do.


Should Titus Andronicus allow smoking in the van? Voting will take place tomorrow morning, Heathrow Airport, 11:00 a.m. Write your favorite band legislator.


em g said...

Proposal: the smokers put their heads in a fishbowl or large jar with two lines of plastic tubing (one for clean oxygen, the other for exhaust) sealed tightly to holes in the top. The plastic tubing is then snaked out the window, and the tubing is long enough to hang down far enough that the smoke will not rebound back into the window. The jar will also have a sealed neckline so that smoke does not escape from the bottom. This plan is in accordance with the Personal Space Act. Sketches will be forthcoming.

Proposal II: Build a small room in the back of the van near the equipment, the size of a cubby or phone booth, with ceiling to floor walls. This room must be ventilated to the outside world. Smokers can enter and exit the room through a small crawl door with a latch and weatherproofing to keep the smoke from exiting the cubby after use. After enjoying said cigarette, the smoker turns on an exhaust fan to draw the smoky air out of the room before re-emerging into the general van vacinity.

em g said...

of course, i forgot about LIGHTING the cigarette, and thus, the helmet model requires modification.