Posted: February 17, 2009 in Uncategorized

A couple of days ago I was wandering around through downtown, enjoying a nice early spring day and taking in the sights and sounds of winter’s temporary backseat. One of the things that I enjoy about walking around outside is the fact that I can smoke cigarettes at will. I don’t have to step outside to have a smoke because, well, I’m already outside. I also enjoy flicking my cigarette and watching it twirl end-over-end like one of those paper “footballs” that you used to make in middle school. And honestly, I kind of dig the dirty looks from non-smokers because I know that if they had some booze in-hand, they would be asking me for a cigarette.

Smoking and walking around in a public place is not without its perils though. Sometimes you can catch an old lady’s coat on fire because she doesn’t say excuse me. Sometimes you can flick your cigarette and it lands on some mulch and catches it ablaze. And sometimes you have to deal with the bummer. What is a ‘bummer’ you might ask? Well, simply put, a bummer is someone who asks anyone that has a cigarette for a cigarette because they are either too cheap or poor to buy smokes themselves, or are still a closet smoker and don’t want others to find out his or her nasty little secret.

On occasion, and particularly when you are moseying around an urban area, you run across a bum (homeless person, whatever) who is also a bummer. This person will ask you for a cigarette and may even offer you money (a quarter) for a cigarette. Normally I will provide this downtrodden soul with a smoke and will do so free of charge because, after all, I don’t have a license to sell cigarettes and I don’t need the fuzz breathing down my neck and tapping my phone lines and what not (and I’m a smoker and I know what it’s like to be jonesin‘ for a little Joe Camel action).

When you ask a person for a cigarette, there is some etiquette to doing so, even if you are going to offer up some of your hard-earned lettuce in the process. When asking for a smoke, as this gentleman found out, you do not do it as such:

“Hey, man, do you have an extra cigarette?” the homeless guy asked me.

I stopped my stride, looked at the ol‘ fellow, and pulled out my freshly opened pack of Camels to inspect the goods. “Let’s see here,” I said. “I have 18 cigarettes left in this pack. I have smoked two of them. I’m sorry man, it doesn’t look like they gave me.”

His previously vacant eyes quickly filled with bewilderment. I could almost see the rusty wheels turning, attempting to make sense of what I just said.

“What do you mean?” he replied

“Well, my friend,” I answered. “There are are only 20 cigarettes in a pack. My trusty math skills tell me that if there are 18 left, and I have smoked two of the 20 leaving 18 in the pack, that this pack of cigarettes did not come with an extra this time.”

With a confused look on his face he stared at me a bit longer. After a moment he turned and walked away, scratching his head and surely attempting to figure out the riddle that was just laid before him.

I felt bad for about two seconds after this exchange. After that two seconds passed, my feelings of guilt morphed into a feeling of victory. I stood my ground, and in the process, taught a valuable lesson about cigarette-bumming etiquette. For those of you that are wondering, if you wish to bum a smoke from me, or any other smoker, the proper terminology is not “extra.” To this day, I have not found a pack of Camels, or any other brand for that matter, that has 21 cigarettes. The proper way to ask for a cigarette could be:

“Hey, can I bum a smoke?” (you may substitute ‘cigarette’ for ‘smoke’ here)
“Hey, can I have a cigarette?” (you may substitute ‘smoke’ for ‘cigarette here)

Both of those phrases will surely earn you a free nicotine fix and keep the smoker you are bumming from sane and happy.

What I lack in decorum, I make up for in absence of tact.
–Don Williams, Jr.



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