Light Up!

May 1st 2010: Travel

(first chapter of the Guilty Pleasure Tales)

Remember those times when you went out to a pub or a bar or a club and then you came home, late at night, after having a grand old time, you crash in your bed, barely able to get out of your clothing and sleep so deep and well, like a log, or like a German style rock? And the next morning you wake up bright and early and relaxed and still a tad hung-over. And then you smell your hair and that favorite shirt you wore the night before. And the gag reflex kicks in and you are more likely to throw up now from that nasty stench than you were the night before from the Tequila shots? Remember those days? Obviously I am talking about the time before smoking was banned in these … entertainment facilities. And when that ban came, at first you were surprised, didn’t see the point, reluctant to change, until that first time you went out after the ban had been instated and then, the next morning, you realized you smell like a fresh spring flower in an untouched forest near the snow covered mountains with Unicorns joyously trotting by. Basically what the snuggle bear must smell like. OK, maybe you didn’t smell quite like that, but you know what I mean. Well, Buenos Aires is going through that transition right now… and very slowly. At this point it is still smoker heaven with some minor annoyances, while as a non-smoker you are in partial hell. As occasional smoker you might just get by.

Smokers are everywhere. Given the numbers, it is actually shocking that car accidents still beat lung cancer as the leading cause of death. However, trying to keep pace with the rest of the world, the government recently passed a law banning smoking inside bars, restaurants, clubs, and the likes. As you might expect, the dedicated addicts find their way around those restrictions. Most restaurants have tables outside where you can eat and smoke and, coincidentally and annoyingly, those are usually the best seats, too. You know, where it’s warm and sunny and you can kick back, with the birds chirping in the tree above you, and the bus zooming past you at reckless speeds. So if you want that great outdoor seat, you will often have to endure the smoker with his cigarillos and his long conversations at the next table over. Some restaurants also have a smoking section inside, in case the weather gets nasty. They are so thoughtful. Bars and clubs seem to have their own house rules on whether they permit smoking. Some just flat out don’t allow it, in others customers can blatantly ignore the posted non-smoking signs, with permission of the staff and the owners, and light up. It also gives the term chain smoker a whole new meaning: I’ve seen where one guy fires up his cigarette, starting a chain reaction of the remaining smokers following suit.

I probably paint a picture a bit too smoky. As I move around the city, spend my time here and there, and generally avoid the fuming bars, I rarely feel molested by smokers. The air is relatively clean – pollution from cars and busses is probably a bigger issue here – and most smokers are fairly considerate. But it is cheap, popular, and absolutely everywhere and as such an essential part of the culture. It is one of those guilty pleasures Argentineans love to indulge in. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay a while longer.

Next chapter: how to get you caffeine fix on in Argentina.

Posted in Travel by Ernst Bruening on May 1st, 2010 at 6:24 pm.

Previous Post:   Next Post: