Wednesday, April 28, 2010

End of Smoking in Restaurants 2-The Sequel

Rachel Glavich, left, and Melissa Slater, right, smoke at The Tipsy Toad Thursday April 22, 2010. Slater said her opinion about the smoking ban, "I don't smoke around my child, but as an adult I prefer the decision." She also said when the smoking ban goes into effect, "I may pack my lunch more or not go to a sit down restaurant."

I thought my previous assignment represented the end of indoor smoking assignments in public spaces in Muskegon, forever.  As I photographed for my previous smoking assignment that I was chronicling the end of an era, or even an epoch.  Since Native American's first invented smoking hundreds or thousands of years ago people have smoked in public meeting places including restaurants.  Now in Michigan only a few isolated locales will remain where people can still smoke in public while indoors--true to history Indian Casinos will be among them.  After I shot my earlier assignment I breathed a sigh of relief as I threw my stinking clothes into the washing machine believing that I would never again photograph smokers in restaurants or bars in Michigan again--I was wrong.

When this assignment was given to me I had two thoughts.  The first was, "didn't I already do this assignment?"  The second was, "how can I improve on my first assignment, will this assignment jsut be a complete dissapointment?"  There are only so many different ways to photograph smokers, and I thought I had already tried most of them.

Day one. My assignment got off to the worst possible start.  I went to the bar I was told to photograph at, and no one was smoking.  The bar staff said they had lots of smokers earlier in the day, which would be great for a historian to know about, but not for a photographer.  So I waited hoping for a few smokers to show up, and as I waited the few non-smoking customers also left.  So sitting in the bar alone in the bar I developed a new plan of attack.  Step one: go to the bar at the time of day the staff said there would be smokers in the bar.  Step two: go to at least one more bar.  I'm not saying my plan would put me in the league of great strategic thinkers such as Napoleon, but at least it would improve my odds.

Day two. I go to The Tipsy Toad.  There are smokers.  Jackpot.  Not chain smokers unfortunately, but at least they lit up.

In the process of photographing these two women I made a modest discovery for the science of communication.  When two talkative women smoke together they take turns inhaling and talking.  One woman smokes, while listening to the other one.  Then the talker put her cigarette in her mouth and the other woman begins talking.  So it is a very rare occasion when both women have the cigarettes in their mouth at the same time.  These two women had the system down to an art.  They kept their sentences to just the right length to allow the other woman to inhale, exhale and then respond.  It was amazing.  Annoying for me because I wanted a photograph with both of them smoking at the same time.  But the almost perfect synchrony each woman had with the other was like a Discovery Channel nature special as the prey moves adroitly in response to the predator.

Final review, the sequel may not be as good as the original, but for fans of smoking it is still worth the price of admission.

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