She was in the lane to my right. Her window was open. Despite the bright sunshine, her pallor was a sickly shade of yellowish green. Between her lips, she held the end of a cigarette. She took one last drag, grasping the butt between two fingers and then she flicked it into her ashtray – otherwise known as “the world.”
The cigarette flew through the humid summer air and landed with a flurry of sparks on the pavement. There it found plenty of company.
It was just another exhilarating encounter with the glamorous modern motorist smoker.
Once upon a time, well-dressed sophisticates picked each other up by offering a cigarette. Today, however, smoking is essentially a prohibited activity and, instead of hipsters puffing proudly, we have ill-mannered tobacco-heads driving around flinging cigarettes out their car windows. That’s because the car remains one of the few places smokers can still enjoy the rich tobacco flavour of their cancer sticks.
The government would like to declare cars no-smoking zones as well, but it is afraid of causing a full-fledged smokers revolt (which would be like the G20, but instead of rioting, smokers would just stand there wheezing their discontent).
I do not wish to see the car made smoke-free, as I’ve mentioned in other columns. Leave the poor addicted creatures a little wiggle room. What I would like to see is more refinement. Back when people thought smoking was glamorous (despite the fact this was nonsense), it attracted glamorous people to smoking. They weren’t slobs. They used smoking paraphernalia – like car ashtrays. You never saw Cary Grant hurl a cigarette butt onto the streets of Monte Carlo maybe?
In the last 20 years, most of these people have quit smoking. If they do smoke, they choose more mood-modifying herbs. Cigarettes are low-rent.
Now all we have are the no-hopers who, despite all the scientific evidence, insist on indulging their nicotine habits. They can’t smoke in the office, on the street, in an airplane, near children, virtually anywhere except their cars. Since they are already pariahs, they don’t see the point in trying to show any manners. Why not fling a cigarette onto the street if you’re already considered a derelict for having the nerve to enjoy one?
Is there nothing we can do? Would it not be possible to offer smoking lessons to manners-adverse motorists? It wouldn’t take much, maybe around 20 minutes. The student would climb into a car with a smoking instructor and, after being shown how to light a cigarette with a car lighter, the instructor would point to an open window and say, “Cigarette butts do not go there.”
Then the instructor would point to an ashtray and say, “Cigarette butts go there.”
Class dismissed. Convocation would consist of graduates walking onto the podium and lighting up.
It’s annoying and disgusting to watch drivers – who probably recycle at home – use the world as a place to deposit old smokes. It’s a tad dangerous when these folks fling burning cigarettes from moving vehicles. They fly out of the window, a heated mini-missile, and zing backward. Most of the time they explode on the road beneath, but I have watched as the occasional tobacco projectile flies toward my car. It’s a great way to ignite road rage in even the most even-tempered person.
Of course, these fuming addicts are not entirely to blame. Many new cars do not come equipped with ashtrays. Smokers must go out to buy portable ones, most of which fit in cup holders. The reality is that modern smokers are not self-assured winners who enjoy the occasional cigarette in moderation. If they are over the age of 25, they are consumed with guilt. They know they are slowly killing themselves, but they won’t stop. Buying an ashtray would be the equivalent of saying, “I’m never going to quit.”
Instead, they smoke illicitly. At home, they leave butts in empty coke cans and, in the car, they fling them out the window. They’re going to quit next week, next month, after the summer is over, so why waste money on a car ashtray?
That’s a shame because portable car ashtrays come in many wonderful shapes and sizes. For instance, you can purchase a “Fashion Shining Diamond Crown Car Ashtray Car Accessories with LED Night Light.” It’s very pretty. It looks like something Mike Tyson would have pierced through his ear. It lights up so the smoker will not have trouble knowing where to place his used-up cigarettes.
If you are a smoker who likes smoking but doesn’t like second-hand smoke, you can buy a smokeless car ashtray. “Don't let excess smoke bother your loved ones,” its promo copy says. I couldn’t agree more. Don’t cloud the issue. Just let your loved one be bothered by the fact you’re slowly killing yourself.
For the truly slothful smoker, there’s the “Self-Extinguishing Car Ashtray.” It “fits all cup holders” and “cigarettes self extinguish.” Seems like a great idea. Why participate in the one healthy act associated with smoking (putting it out) when you can have the cigarettes committing hari kari in your ashtray?
What I’m saying is there are many places to put your cigarette butts. I’ve listed many and I can think of at least one more but discretion prevents me from mentioning it.
Just don’t fling them out your car window.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy