In America, where if you wanted to you could walk down the street and buy a cigarette-shooting gun taped to a six-pack of malt lquor, you don't have to worry about the ludicrous shit we have to deal with here in Canada.
The Government owns everything here. It's like Communist Russia, except only for anything that's bad for you, and therefore worth doing to excess. If you want a pack of cigarettes, you have to pay ten dollars for them because of Government taxes. If you want liquor or beer, you have to go to specially Government-licensed stores and wait in long lines for it so a Government worker can go in the back and find your order from a stockroom. Then you again pay exhorbitant taxes on it.
As well, because the Government is incapable of selling any good or service without tying their shoelaces together and pinwheeling face-first into the business equivelant of a pie factory, beer stores work logic-defying hours that almost seem like a dare for you to just go ahead and try to buy beer from them, smart guy. Only a Government-run industry not concerned at all with actually making money (and maybe banks) would close at specifically the time when people start entertaining thoughts about purchasing their products. ("It's a holiday! No work! Wooo! We can do anything we want! Except buy beer, because not a single store in Canada will sell it to us today! Alright!")
Americans might well ask: "How is that any different than Communist Russia exactly?" And the answer is that Communist Russia actually keeps their beer stores open past 8:00 pm.
If this were the private industry, the Government would call it a monopoly and shut it down. To be honest, I'd rather it was the private industry. If I bought all my beer from Microsoft, I could at least have some assurance that they'd actually stay open long enough to take my money.
Rubbing salt into these already bitter wounds is a new by-law that came into effect two weeks ago, effectively barring smoking in public places entirely. Restaurants, pubs, bars -- if it's a public place, and indoors, it is now completely illegal to smoke there. Anywhere. No exceptions.
The radio station I listen to in the morning's been rolling phone-in clips of average Torontonians with their various takes on the issue -- and since the station's not interested in pissing off their listener base, every conceivable stance is covered off. We hear the irate smoker ranting at the Canadian police state; the weepy soccer mom begging smokers to stop blowing cancer directly into the lungs of their wheelchair-bound children; the pompous blowhard slamming the tables and saying "Well, can I just say it's about time!", like someone having a cigarette with their beer in a pub was the one bad stitch keeping the fabric of society coming together in pants-shitting harmonic bliss.
And anyway, whatever. I'm certainly not going to sit here and argue that smoking is healthy and good for the septum -- yes, it's quite evil, and yes, people have a right to not contract cancer while eating out in restaurants. So in theory, this law is fairly sturdy.
In practice, though, it's actually pretty stupid, for the simple reason that the sorts of people who actually worry about getting cancer from secondhand smoke are also the sorts of people not visiting bars to get shitfaced on a Tuesday. They're off -- I dunno, doing whatever it is healthy people do after work. Jog, I suppose, then make vegetarian pasta, watch the West Wing and have embarrassingly high-pitched sex.
Where they aren't is where the people who don't give a shit about their bodies or futures are: namely, downing pints and gobbling chicken wings and smoking cigarettes. Case in point: I stopped into my usual watering hole after work today. Sometimes I'll pop in with friends, other times I'll go in by myself, grab a burger and pint and sit in a quiet corner with a book. Today was a "quiet corner" day -- a long, exhausting day, and one I wanted to just forget for an hour over a cold beer and a good read.
As soon as I walked in, however, I was immediately reminded about the no-smoking bylaw.The reminder came in the form of nobody actually being in the bar. Completely, barrenly empty. Well, not entirely true: one old lady enjoying a salad in a booth. But other than the fossil, you could've dryhumped a tumbleweed and listened for the echo.
The waitress spotted me looking around in confusion and walked over.
"Are you guys closed or something? I..."
"In the back."
"Could I smoke if I... is that still...?"
"In the back."
I walk to the back and through the rear door, which opens into a small patio packed to standing room only. A hundred people are crammed like sardines into a forty foot square prison, smoking and drinking and trying like bastards to secure what limited elbow room their allotment will provide.
You have to laugh. You really do. The best laid plans of ecetera ecetera. Here's a completely empty bar, which the only hundred people in a position to use it aren't allowed, becauseof a hundred other people who would never step foot in this place because they're at home right now doing crunches, making to-do lists and filing next year's taxes. And here we are, all cramped into a little smoking death camp, in case one of them might walk through the door and want a non-threatening smoke-free environment to themselves. Look, non-smokers, I don't want you to get cancer anymore than you do. But, no, really? Go. Fuck. Yourselves. You couldn't have given us like 10% of the bars? You needed them all? Do you even drink, you pious shits?
Honestly, could they not have planned this better? Wouldn't it have made more sense to segregate? Do the sorts of people who avoid smoke and the sorts of people who smoke a pack while waiting for their onion rings honestly frequent the same places? Could there have been no compromise here for the poor huddled masses in the shanty at the back of the bar, yearning to break free from the dictates of people who wouldn't enter this bar if they were giving away free pilates lessons?
I think a far more rational solution to all this would have been for every smoker to simply ask the militant nons, "Look, let's make this easy: where are all you going tonight?"
"There? Okay, good. That's where we won't be then. We're going to go into this smoky fuckhole over here and enjoy listening to ourselves take years of our lives by the minute."
"Good? Good. Now. You jazzercise one fucking foot in here and you won't have to worry about secondhand smoke giving you cancer. Because I swear to fucking christ I will open up your chest cavity and give it to you myself."