Sorry, sorry; I’m having a hard time getting back into the swing of things after my trip to Paris. Between that and the holiday rush, there doesn’t leave much time for my duties here on this blog.
Actually, I hadn’t anticipated falling off the blogging wagon so easily. I fully expected to be blogging regularly from Paris, but after that initial entry, all of my best intentions flitted away. I was doing a lot of walking around town, taking photographs, spending time with my dad, seeing friends and fighting jet lag; somehow the idea of being productive on my laptop at the end of each day lost out to just resting and relaxing.
I had a great time in Paris, as I always do. In fact, its vivid beauty is so universally acknowledged and accurate that there’s almost nothing original I can write in further praise of it. If you’ve never visited, suffice it to say that it lives up to its reputation in every way — and with each repeat visit, it reveals something new and characteristically stunning.
It’s certainly not perfect, though. For various reasons, I was ready to come home by the end of the week — one of the primary ones being that I got fed up with the Parisian predilection for smoking like it’s going out of style.
Chain Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em
Though I’m no fan of the habit, I have a fairly decent tolerance for the presence of smoke in public places. At least I do when I’m stateside. By contrast, the amount of lit tobacco in Paris is just too much for me. Tobacco fumes creep liberally through restaurants and bistros like an insidious threat, and cloud up bars and nightclubs like an aggressive San Franciscan fog. It’s not charming, libertine or romantic. It’s just disgusting.
There is, thankfully, hope on the horizon: in the new year, the city will effectively prohibit smoking while in cafés, restaurants and bars, extending a ban that went into effect earlier this year in less nocturnal spaces like offices, schools and airports. Slowly but surely, the Parisian notion of public health is coming along.
Back to the Future of Smoking
That extended ban is just weeks away, but if you spend any time among the undeterred smoking population in Paris’ bars and clubs, where cigarette consumption seems undiminished, even accelerated, you’ll find it hard to believe that the law will change a thing once it’s on the books. It reminded me of how completely unrealistic New York City’s own smoking ban seemed in the days before it took effect earlier in this decade; at the time the habit was so thoroughly ingrained in the city’s nightlife that a mere statute seemed to stand little chance of curbing such monumentally entrenched behavior.
Still, when the calendar turned, smoking disappeared from bars and nightclubs without much of a fight. Today, it’s difficult to recall vividly that time when smoking was so prevalent in New York. Memories of that era are hazy and absurd compared to the altogether more sensible reality we experience today; that you can now spend an evening out with friends without inhaling the deadly byproduct of other people’s cigarettes and without returning home at the end of the evening bearing the vile musk of an ash tray is so thoroughly logical, I’m amazed by how long we tolerated what came before it.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying: people adapt to new rules — new patterns of usage — even when the old ways seem unchangeable. We often mistake long-standing preferences for non-negotiable instincts, but we’re really much more flexible than that. Lucky for the Parisians, and lucky for me, too, next time I go.