Thursday, January 29, 2004

Nicotine Speakeasy

Among the pleasures I’m anticipating on my upcoming trip to Indy is being handed an ashtray by a bartender. It’s not that California’s ban on smoking in bars has prevented me from lighting up illegally. The motivated addict, or rather the addiction motivation, can always find a friendly nicotine speakeasy.

While most bar owners will buckle the first time the cops issue tickets to bargoers, a few play a sustained game of cat-and-mouse with the unsustainable policy. In fact, it’s always the speakeasies that sport the largest signs warning that smoking in a bar is a $170 offense. “Well, we can’t help it they don’t read the sign, officer.”

Bars also distance themselves from their craven clientel by not providing the telltale ashtray. I’ve seem lots of illegal smoking in bars over the last five years, but an ashtray only when the bartender is sneaking a cigarette. At my favorite nicotine speakeasy, let’s call it The Iron Lung, few remnants of fiber remain to let you know the carpet was once red. Instead, red-speckled expanses of charred underpadding reassure me that I'm in a free zone.

Anti-smoking activists won just bans in offices easily. Restaurants less so, though a victory nonetheless. But in bars they've shown themselves to be fanatics and have found their Vietnam. Just give me a friggin ashtray.

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