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Smoke & Mirrors

I once sent a simple query to the hash e-mail list . . . and nearly started a riot. Here’s a copy of that letter:

Dear Hashers,

I have a question about circle etiquette, and it’s kind of a hot potato. I think – I might be wrong – that the majority of hashers don’t smoke. I also think that non-smoking hashers would rather not be exposed to smoke. But the hash is also tolerant and largely rule-free, and I believe most of us would agree it’s wrong to persecute those who choose to smoke.

That said, what to do about smoking in the circle? If most hashers feel that smoking in the circle is uncool (as I believe they do), would it be okay for the GM or RA to declare a “tradition” that hashers can’t smoke in the circle, but if they want to smoke, they can leave the circle and smoke without penalty? Or is that neofascist, as Pick’n'Flick tells me?

Our hash has always had one or two smokers, but lately we’ve gained a few more, and some sort of critical mass has been reached – most of us do not want to stand next to someone who’s smoking (no matter how much we like him or her). Of course, the smokers hate and resent it when the rest of us say “no smoking.” And the non-smokers hate and resent it when someone lights up next to them in the circle, a situation where they can’t politely get away without incurring a down-down.

Giving smokers down-downs for smoking is certainly not kosher, and causes more trouble than it’s worth (been there, done that, seen it . . . emotions run high on this subject). My idea is to ask that smokers not smoke in the circle, but also ask mismanagement not to harass smokers for leaving the circle in order to smoke.

I’m trying to find the golden compromise that’ll piss off the fewest people – too bad Solomon’s dead, or I’d ask him! Any ideas or thoughts? Is this a burning issue in any other hashes out there? Or should I just shove the whole thing up my ass?

On On,
Flying Booger

And herewith, a sampling of your opinions (names removed) on smoking in the Circle!

“I find that a CO2 fire extinguisher usually disuades smokers from further indulging in this nasty habit, and to date only four have died from lack of oxygen.”"Cigarettes? Those guys don’t smoke – they SUCK! Cigars – part of the etiquette of the circle . . . other – depends on how much you value your security clearance . . . .”

“We like the ‘Oh my God! Your face is on fire!’ response followed by a drenching of the offending cigarette with beer. Oh yeah, you said you DIDN’T want to piss them off. In our group, they would be so outnumbered they’d have two choices: 1) get pissed off and leave; 2) get a clue and not smoke around us. I guess we have a zero tolerance policy. BTW, since when does a hash group worry obout offending someone?”

“My first inclination was to answer ‘Yes, just shove the whole thing up your ass.’ But then I pondered the dilemna and thought you might benefit from my insight. I am not aware that we here in ________ have experienced any complaints either way. We have plenty of smoking and non-smoking hashers, and have managed to maintain a desegregated circle. Maybe the smokers are more considerate, or the non-smokers more tolerant? In an attempt to convert to clean livin’, I recently kicked the habit. My personal philosophy: Hey, if you spend enough time in bars, you’re bound to be exposed to the excesses of smoke. Get over it!”

“1) Smoking is a tradition on the Hash which extends all the way back to 1938. In the Long bar (where our ancestral lords first emerged from the slime of humanity and ascended into the Hash heavens) Gispert, Horse, and the rest would often enjoy a cigar with their beer after the runs. (In those days, they would typically retire to the long bar after the run to drink, which eventually led to what we now know as the circle). 2) Don’t even think of bringing up the ‘second-hand smoke’ issue. The EPA study is so flawed (I have a copy, and would be more than happy to go over ‘inconsistencies’ with anyone anytime) it couldn’t have been published had it not been the PC thing to do at the time (fuck you Hillary). 3) Believe it or not, most smokers, when asked POLITELY, will generally be happy to accomodate you by either moving, or waiting until later to light up. It is only when the smoke nazis get irrational that they respond in kind. 4) Ask __________ what happens when you insist on persecuting a cigar smoker (and a visiting GM at that) in the circle. It isn’t pretty. 5) If this is a problem on your Hash, the Hares should be smart enough to pick an end where you are not all cramped into a broom closet and the smokers can find a place downwind. 6) If you are that worried about your health, why are you running the hash anyway? There are plenty of Politically Correct running clubs around where you can have a bottle of evian (Naive backwards) and perhaps some wheat germ after your run. The last time I looked, the bill of fare at an on-on wasn’t available at GNC.”

“FB – even though I’m an on-again off-again smoker, I agree that smoking is, in the words of my lovely wife, a Vile, Filthy, Disgusting, Loathsome Habit that should not be forced on others (as second hand smoke). In those years in which I’m RA/GM of whichever hash I will privately ask the smokers to keep it out of the circle. Those that don’t abide my repeated requests have been known to accidentally get doused with beer. In my mind the key was to not publicly ridicule the smokers but to ask them in private, and even point out that a suprizingly large number of runners suffer from asthma which can be set off by smoke (ok, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration in the out-of-doors, but it makes a point). Of course this approach will prove difficult in larger hashes where I would probably just appoint a fire brigade to douse any smouldering fires in the circle.”

“In many of the hashes I have been to, the answer was easy. If you have a basically democratic circle, simply call a vote for all smokers in the circle who are lit up to do a down-down. The RA/GM/whatever calls the vote (as in most kangaroo court votes in the circle they’ll drink). After a few bouts of that, the smokers will keep it out of the circle. That keeps it democratic, humorous and helps to keep tensions down. As for the dictatorships I hear about here and there, well if the dictator running the circle doesn’t smoke, then it’s still easy. I’ve run with hashes which had a large number of smokers (for runners), however they were always very polite about it and kept it out of the circle voluntarily. It seems your hash is suffering from the counter-smokers revolution.”

“Booger, I really don’t care too much if people smoke in the circle. As the HASH has no rules I can’t see how you can ask someone not to smoke in the circle. If someone has a problem woth someone else smoking they should tell them themselves, this would lead to some interesting banter at religion.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary to declare a ‘tradition’ unless there has been a lot of complaining. We have smokers at _________ H3 and people simply handle it among themselves. If the smoke bothers somebody they simply ask the smoker to move upwind. People have been pretty courteous without having to institute any sort of tradition or policy. Maybe your circle traditions are already a little too strict?”

“If smoking becomes a problem in the circle, the hashers it bothers should mention it to the individuals involved. I think the purpose of mismanagement is to set things up for a good time, not to decide what individual hashers can or can’t do.”

“I don’t smoke and am normally very anti-smoking. But . . . I think smoking in the hash should be encouraged. It means that you aren’t taking the running and fitness bit too seriously.”

“Here at the _________ HHH we all do the same thing. In general we never give smokers a hard time for leaving the circle to smoke. BUT, we are harsh during down-downs. Smoking in the circle during down downs is given a down down IF anyone notices. All of the smokers here know about this, and having violated it once usually don’t make the same mistake again. Then again, we have some who always do it and seem to think nothing of getting a down-down in true hasher spirit. I think the true point here is that doing ANTHING in the circle (Smoking, Private Parties, etc) that allows hashers to not pay attention and contribute to the songs, festivities, namings, and down-downs should be given their appropriate ‘reward.’”

“I guess you could always do like _________ does when someone is smoking a cigar around her. She’ll ask for a puff, then put it in their beer.”

“My compromise? Ask them not to smoke IN the circle. If they can’t wait the few minutes it take to have the circle or leave the circle if they can’t wait, they have a problem, and it ain’t ours!”

“My initial impression is that if people are stupid enough to smoke, they’re probably too insensitve to non-smokers, asthmatics, and hashers who have had relatives murdered by the cigarette industry (like my father) to stand down wind voluntarily. HOWEVER, based on experience our smokers tend to be a considerate lot who are more than willing to hold off on smoking for the duration of the circle/hash business/etc. Dousing would appear to be unnecessary, unless they object to holding off, then screw em. Also, in that winter hashes often end on bars, there’s only so much you can do. Even anti-smoking activists like myself can see that the second-hand smoke argument in an outdoor setting is specious.”

“Both _________’s and my personal opinions on the smok’n gun you’re carrying is get rid of the gun. It is the HASH religious circle, held OUTSIDE, not dinner in the dining car. Only sisseys, not hashers, would even think of making an issue of it (I hope you’re not making an issue of it). Tell ‘em to FUCK OFF if they don’t like it. We don’t smoke but outside, in the open air, we have no say and neither do they. What’s next Flying Booger, no spitting tobacco juice in the circle (second-hand slobber)? You certainly have an open can of worms to deal with . . . best of luck with it.”

“Unfortunately, or fortunately, for you, you reside in a community developed on such high moral standards as gambling and prostitution. And you’re worried about smoking in the circle? Smoking comes with the territory. It seems that you and your H3 out there is looking for a ‘politically correct’ answer and I have always been under the impression that is a realm the hash could care less about. Hash House Harriers are typically thick skinned, give a rats butt of what people think about ‘em and this should be a non-issue. These are traditonally people who think live sex acts in public places are acceptable so why should they worry about smokers (some smoke after sex). If the smokers are really peeving people off (on purpose) it’s always an honor to do a down-down for the hash, but whoever makes the accusation could be brought up for being such a whiner/poofter. If you take this traditional approach, accusations and whining may die down. Knowing how people feel about smokers nowadays, this is not an easy issue, maybe the Liggett company can help you out . . . let’s not forget, the H3 has all ways been an informal gathering based on traditions, not rules, and smoking has been around longer than any hash I know of (where do people think the term ‘hash’ came from and what was going on in Hash Houses).”

“Everyone touts ‘Smokers Rights.’ Why should a smoker’s right to smoke supercede my right to breathe? If it does, then my right to swing my arm should certainly supercede the smoker’s right to have his nose where my swing happens to go, no? And of course, there is this: ‘You get pleasure from smoking. It’s byproduct gets on my clothes (making them stink), makes my nose run, and ruins my lungs. I get pleasure from beer. The byproduct from my please is urine. How would you like if I pee’d all over you and your clothes?’”

“At _________ HHH, smokers are tolerated if they can tolerate us non-smokers for making their disgusting habit the ridicule of the hash. In general most smokers have enough respect for the circle that they don’t partake. If they do, they move downwind and just enough outside of the crowd so they don’t bother anyone. No big deal if their toes aren’t ‘on the line.’ As far as the GM making it a tradition, only time can make a tradition, not the GM. Now the RA on the other hand (if he’s skilled with word and wit) can generally make fun of the subject enough that the polluter will abstain.”

“For the record, I too lack Solomon characteristics, but love to smoke cigars (preferably outdoors whenever possible or in down-down establishments when acceptable), and don’t particularly care for the scent of cigarette smoke. That said, here’s some smoke ring sense: Only establishments and private households have rules/traditions on smoking or no smoking (whatever). I don’t advocate smoking but it is an option and one with consequences and choices (like our President, one doesn’t always have to inhale). As a hasher, a courtesy down wind position seems the right/polite/crude/rude thing to down. Hash principle #1 is: Enjoy! and #2 is: Always Enjoy!!! Drinkers with a running problem is problem enough. At some of our hashes I am sometimes relegated to experiencing that pseudo private party with other cigar smoking and cigarette longing hashers. What I gain and will continue to gain is the social interaction and pleasure of meeting new personalities, some that I may not have otherwise met. Whether it is in a smoking room, smoking outside, or even outside a circle, it’s a KISS principle. Keep it simple, stupid. The basic premise for all is enjoy. Forget the making of a non-tradition ‘tradition’ or rules, just interact. NIKE! Just do it. And do it in true (and traditional) hash fashion; without rules. And for those of you (us) that need a smoke in the circle, blow your smoke ring where it’s appreciated.”

And finally, in response to the last letter: “Your smoke-dulled senses are only clouding the issue: ‘Only establishments and private households have rules/traditions on smoking or no smoking (whatever).’ So untrue I shouldn’t have to comment. But since you thought it likely enough to be true that you said (emailed) it out loud, it should be corrected. The country of Singapore and many U.S. municipalities have laws against smoking in public. Even more municipalities have ordinances against smoking in restaraunts and public (gov’t owned) buildings. Many hashes (that I’ve been to and others I’ve heard of) have traditions forbidding smoking in the circle. In those hashes the pack’s near violent response to violators of this tradition were swift, quite severe (more than for any other type of violation) and repeated (until the offense was ceased). As you say, smoking is a choice with consequences – cancer being one and down-downs being another if it is done in the circle (unless the burning end is kept tightly enclosed in your mouth and you NEVER exhale – except maybe to scream in excruciating pain – that might be OK). ‘As a hasher, a courtesy down wind position seems the right/polite/crude/rude thing to down. Hash principle #1 is: Enjoy! and #2 is: Always Enjoy!!!’ That’s pretty much the bottom line. If only it were true. If smokers always ensured their airborne excrement didn’t waft into the circle, they would need no furthur punishment (beyong their assured miserable, hacking, wheezing death) by being recognized with a down-down. Since the death-wish-junkie smokers are not always polite enough to excrete downwind, oftentimes amongst hashdom I have seen packs feel the need to show their appreciation with a “Fire in the Hole” down-down. The heaviest drinkers don’t expect to puke in your mug and then you drink it. Likewise I don’t appreciate your exhaling that crap for me to breathe. Common courtesy wasn’t enough to keep smoke out of restaraunts and the workplace – smokers thought (and apparently still think) nothing of ruining other people’s meals or health (through second hand smoke). ‘I’m smoking at my table not theirs’ and ‘You’re clear across the room, surely my smoke doesn’t bother you’ were inadequate rationalization before as now. Only no-smoking laws ensured what should have been common sense and common courtesy driven behavior. ‘The basic premise for all is enjoy.’ That is exactly what your smoking interferes with – the enjoyment of the hash for the non-smokers.”

- Flying Booger

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