Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Would You Mind Not Eating? I'm Smoking Here!

If you happen to swagger into a Czech restaurant in Prague you could be in for a surprise: all of your clothing, your hair, your food and your drink will smell like cigarettes. If you are a smoker, you probably won't even notice. Or maybe you would; even the last bastions of the Global Smokers Republic which haven't been closed down by uppity pink lungers—have ventilation. There is no word in Czech for ventilation. If there is, it is merely academic and probably archaic. If you happen to wade through the blue-gray pub/restaurant smoke cloud and happen to see something resembling a small fan in the wall or the window, you won't see the fucking thing spinning. It may be due to a number of reasons, the least of which include:

A)  Communism. Commies love black lung disease. They find it quite yummy.

B)  Legal loopholes. I was told of a 'law' which declared that all pubs and restaurants must have ventilation. I was then told that you could find nowhere in that same 'law' which said that the ventilation must be functional.

C)  Cheapness. Why fix something if it will cost twenty bucks?

I'm gonna hafta go with A) Communism and yummy black lung disease.

Exhibit A: a ventilation fan at the pub across the street had its poor little metal slats kicked in overnight (no doubt by roving hordes of commie black lungers) and I was looking at a gaping hole in the wall with shreds of tin. Over the course of the day after, the pub owners had various people scratch their heads, pace around like they were looking for loopholes, fix the damaged vent, then flip it on to test it. For about 5 minutes, the newly-repaired horizontal tin slats flapped up and down while smoke belched out. Then they turned it off and went back inside. No use losing all the precious pub smoke. 'But Big Sir, WTF are you doing eating in a pub?' Glad you asked. In the Czech Republic, they have the pivnice (beer hall), hospoda (pub) and restaurace (restaurant). All of them do beer and food (to some degree) and they are all united with one purpose: to choke you with cigarette smoke.

A Little Leary

I'm trying to view things from the smoker's point of view. But I can't. Even though my favorite rant god Denis Leary told me smoking was the bee's knees, I couldn't quite hack it. I tried smoking for about five minutes in the 90s and I discovered it was disgusting and expensive. How people decide to devote their lives and wallets to this useless fucking habit is beyond me.

I do booze. Booze gives me a nice little head buzz and relaxes all my aching muscles (typing rants hurts). For the price of one pack of cigarettes in Europe I can buy a whole bottle of booze and get blotto. Now THERE'S a fuckin' habit worth its weight.

So, while the Global Smoking Ban had crept slowly eastward from Hippie Central in California, it never reached the Czech Republic. I just returned after 6 years in Germany, and the Czechs STILL smoke like chimneys. EVERYWHERE. I got used to the smoky Czech pub over the years because the only non-smoking restaurants were either fast food chains for tourists or fancy food for yuppie fucks. I'm neither, so I'm forced to go to the smoky Czech pub. There was even a bit of reverse culture shock when I visited places I'd been years before when they were smoke chokers—to now see the effects of smoking laws. Upon my return to California after several years abroad (during which time they enacted the public smoking ban), I was heading to a bar with a good friend. As he was pulling up to park, I shouted LOOK AT ALL THE PEOPLE OUTSIDE! IS THE BAR ON FIRE OR WHAT?!? My friend laughed and said, 'No, idiot, those are the smokers stepping out for a smoke.' The same type of situation greeted me in an empty pub in Cork, Ireland in 2008. All of the people were out for a smoke. I asked the only patron remaining in the pub how the smoking ban has affected the cultural phenomenon known as the Irish Pub.

"Now ye can smell da farts" was his reply. Gawd I love the Irish wit.


UPDATE: Summer of 2017 marks the end of smoking in Prague pubs and restaurants. We can now breathe easily. Now we non-smokers get to hear all the whiny smokers complaining. Worry not, O chimney breath: you can still find plenty of scofflaws who let people smoke in their pubs. Just follow your nose.

Big Sir's Tip: visit the Czech restaurant/pub between the hours of 11am and 2pm on weekdays. Most of them have a temporary lunch time smoking ban in place while you chew and sip. And the food is about half price for the daily lunch menu.


Laurel-Rain Snow said...

There are still some places here with smoking. Guess what they are? Casinos! I hadn't realized this fact when I went to one a few years ago, one of the several here in California. These places still puzzle me, but the whole Indian reservation thing allows for them. But it was horrible! I hadn't realized how devastating the smoking effects were, having been free from them for years.

Love that photo!

Craig Robinson said...

Indian: Do you have any tobacco?
White Man: No.
Indian: Stupid fucking white man.

- tobacco discussion scene, 'Dead Man' - Jim Jarmusch