Nudes and smokers switch places

My how our laws and attitudes have changed. It was all on display Saturday in downtown Seattle, where I ventured to watch a musical. Normally I’m drug to these things in handcuffs and leg shackles, but this was different. The musical was about a throat-slitting barber who, after dispatching his customers, turns them into tasty meat pies. A nice change of pace from romantic comedies.

The most interesting part of the show was intermission when I dashed outside to hang around with the smokers. I quit smoking many years ago, but still enjoy the cheap thrill of walking through a cloud of second-hand smoke. The smokers filled the downtown sidewalk and they paced back and forth nervously. I knew what they were thinking. They were thinking of the new 25-foot rule approved last week by voters. Not only can’t you smoke inside public buildings, but you can’t stand outside and smoke within 25-feet of a doorway or window. Nobody had a tape measure, but it appeared that the only legal place to smoke was in the middle of 5th Avenue, where the life expectancy for a pedestrian is 2.5 seconds.

The smokers mixed on the sidewalk with window shoppers. The most interesting window belonged to a fancy women’s clothing shop that was closed. The windows and showroom were filled with lifelike naked female mannequins, some of which had silver holiday stars stuck to their points of interest. The maximum number of stars was three. Some had two, some one, and some none. I was surprised nobody seemed shocked by all this nudity. The non-smoking men on 5th Avenue ignored the display, perhaps daydreaming of male figure skaters. Women just rolled their eyes as if thinking, “If this is the holiday fashion, I’d better start smoking and lose some weight.”

The outrage was found inside the theater’s broad doors, which were opened wide as the smokers puffed and paced on the sidewalk. Naturally, some of the smoke drifted inside. The non-smokers started talking about the new smoking law, and how it wouldn’t be long before the smokers would have to stay 25-feet away from the theater’s door. Smokers were universally considered obnoxious, ill-considerate folks, willing to give cancer to others to satisfy their craving. People couldn’t wait for the new smoking law to take effect. I foresee a big business in the sale of 25-foot tape measures, with smokers and non-smokers measuring, arguing and, ultimately, engaging in fisticuffs in front of the window full of nude mannequins.

I imagined what the same scene would have been like when I was a kid. Most men would have stayed inside the theater lobby to smoke, and nobody would have thought anything of it. Those who decided to stretch their legs and have a smoke outside would have stared in amazement at the scene inside the clothing store. Women would have called the cops and their preachers and then marched inside, demanding and end to this pornographic display. The nude mannequin protest would have been on the front page of the local dailies, but only the mannequins with three stars would have been pictured.

Before, smokers were fine and nudes were not. Now, nudes are fine and smokers are not. It’s hard saying which atmosphere is healthier.

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