The wicked night air


Originally uploaded by meganinmunich.

I’ve been battling a nice chest cold for the last weeks. It started as a frog in my throat, moved to a sexy deep voice that would sometimes shift up to a pubescent teenager boy’s, cracking and screeching before settling down again, and then into a real old-time smoker’s hack. One cough would turn into a hacking fit that lasted a good minute before it settle down enough.

I’ve been coughing myself into headaches and stomach pains because the muscles just cannot take it anymore. Sadly this does not give one a sixpack, no matter how much you try.

Last week it went into semi-remission, I was a bit throaty but walking around, seemingly ok. Oliver and I made plans to meet some friends for a quiet dinner at a nice Italian bistro we’d been hearing rave reviews about. Nothing crazy, just dinner and then home again.

Naturally, being us we were running a bit late (and also to spare me walking around in the cold) we jumped into a cab.

The minute I got in my eyes were watering and my nose was twitching, I could feel the spasm working its way up my throat. The driver had smoked in the car, obviously with the window closed and too much smoke remained inside for comfort. My passenger window was locked and wouldn’t open. Swallowing hard and taking shallow breaths, I asked Oliver to ask the driver to let some air in, I couldn’t trust myself to finish a sentence right then.

Oliver asked nicely (in german), “Excuse me, could you crack the windows please? The air is a bit bad.”

“I am done with the cigarette, ok?” The driver still had the smoldering butt in his hand.

Oliver and I exchanged a flabbergasted look.

“He’s still finishing it off” I said quietly (in english).

The driver tossed the butt out the window and rolled it back up as he was still exhaling, trapping most of it in the car.

“There, it’s gone” he said.

At this point I’m coughing and the driver obviously thinks I’m exaggerrating it. He doesn’t open the window as asked.

“I never drive with the window open, I’m very sensitive to the cold air” he insisted.

We wondered at this statement for a moment while sitting in the blue haze. Oliver tried again, all pretense of niceness gone.

“Well we need to breathe too, can you at least let the smoke out? Or turn on the air?”

The driver argued that he could catch cold from the damp, foggy air outside. He kept up his monolgue until the car came to a stop at a red light. He briefly let the windows crack while the car stood at the light and then quickly rolled them up before driving on.

It was enough to stop my coughing but had we not been so late we would have gotten out at the next red light.

In all my time in Germany, I have never run across someone so in denial and so obtuse about smoking. Germans may smoke but 99.9% in my experience observe the etiquette that comes with it. No one smokes near or while someone is eating. Should smokers accidentally let a burning fag too close to the next table at a restaurant they are the first to apologize, wave the air clear and adjust their position. And every driver who smokes in their car, opens the friggen window because they know you cannot expect passengers to sit in smoky air they didn’t smoke themselves.

The exception makes the rule, I guess. Needless to say he didn’t get a tip.


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