Monday, September 25, 2006

Is it Safe to Take Your Needles to a Bar Near You?

Today is a momentous day in Philadelphia history - the long awaited smoking ban goes into effect. Knitters everywhere can rejoice - our yarn will be free from the lingering effects of second hand smoke - or will it?

Personally, I go to a bar to drink, not to knit, and since knitting and drinking don't mix, I don't think I'll be taking advantage of this emancipation proclamation for knitters, but frankly, what are the odds that anyone is actually going to "police" this ban? Let's take a look at the courthouse, a municipal building that has been allegedly smoke free for years.

When the smoking ban first went into affect, smokers fled to the stairwells of the Criminal Justice Center. Lawyers, victims, cops and criminals all blended together in a sea of nicotine haze - which was all fine and good, I guess, except that there are only six elevators for 11 floors of courtrooms, and of those six, 2 elevators are programmed not to stop on every floor on the way down. So, while it would be nice to shoot up and down the stairs between my visits to the ten different courtrooms I may have to visit on any given day, in my Anne Taylor suit and my Bandolino shoes, its just not worth the stink. This feeling was shared by many, and enter stage left - Judge Seamus McCaffery to enforce the smoking ban. Yes, Judge McCaffery, of Eagles court fame, and currently a Judge on our Superior Court, cracked out his whip, roamed the stairwells, and tossed all offenders.

But, Judge McCaffery has moved on, and the stairwell, slowly but surely, has returned to a stink pit. So, if in this building that is the alleged hub of law enforcement and justice, directly across the street from the Mayor's Office, you can still catch a smoke, who's going to be putting out the butts at McGillan's or Independence Brew Pub, or Fergies, or any other long established smoking haven?

I guess an argument can be made that smoking is a necessary evil at the courthouse - that it serves to calm tensions in a building fraught with contention, emotion, and jacked up levels of anxiety. I'm confident that we would all rather have the parties in a criminal case take a moment in the stairwell with a calming cigarette, rather than jump the bar of the court and start pounding the crap out of a defendant (which, believe me, has happened). And, before someone turns themselves in to start a lengthy jail sentence, who really wants to deprive a guy of his last smoke? And as a necessary evil, maybe it's not such a great example of nonenforcement, as police turn a blind eye to smoking (and maybe have a smoke themselves) to prevent a greater harm.

But, given the smoking ban track record in Philly, I'm not taking my knitting to a bar near you anytime soon.

10 comments:

Ilana said...

Ah, but you have to consider the financial aspect. If the city catches someone smoking in the halls of its own City Hall it has to fine...uh...itself. If it catches a bar owner allowing illegal puffery - presto! More shiny coins in the city's coffers, which will pay for more enforcement to find more scofflaw bar owners and put more shiny coi...oy, my head hurts.

Anyway, cigarette smoke isn't the only danger in a bar. I'm not sure overdyeing with cranberry juice would provide good results.

Wendy said...

Or dropping stitches because of blurred vision (LOL) or worse yet completely losing your place in a pattern for lack of proper tracking due to making eyes at some cutie on the opposite side of the room (a handsome fella, with the eyes of an appreciator for fine knitted goods)... Of course a knitted project for display only (i.e., peeking out of a tote, or the binding off of a scarf that you can then toss around your neck with a flourish is a completely different matter.

Carol said...

I'm glad you're back. I'd been searching in vain for a new blog entry!

Sherry W said...

Actually I do like to knit in pubs! Hubby likes live tunes, and it's nice to catch a band with a beer and a sock in hand. The former two helps if the prior sucks. ;)

girlie jones knits said...

We've had the ban here for a while - more people want smoke free environments than not, at least here in Australia. And people tend to police it more than the authorities, knowing it's in their rights now to be in a smokefree environment.

S t a c i said...

I can see the argument that people might need a "comfort habit" while at the courthouse...I imagine that most people there are pretty stressed out.

Maybe someone needs to start a "Quit Smoking, Start Knitting!" campaign to calm those nerves.

Knittah said...

The image of Philadelphia cops picking up the pointy sticks to lower stress and quit smoke is priceless. Just priceless.

Marlisa said...

I fear I'd be too tempted to use my pointy sticks as weapons against a) cheesy men entering my personal space b) awful hair-tossing bimbos shrilly emitting their mating call (hee HEE hee HEE!) c)Loud cell phone users.

Can you picture the headlines? "Knitter Goes Mad in Bar! Puncture Wounds Suffered by Many"

Theresa said...

Personally, I love smoking bans. Glad to hear that I'll be able to not smell like an ash tray next time I'm out in Philly. Watch those dangerous ones, though!

Dorothy said...

Life is so much nicer smelling since our smoking in All workplaces ban went into effect. I can actually take my daughter to a restaurant now without worrying about affecting her health. Most of the bars built outdoor patios and acquired the necessary paperwork (more money for gov't coffers) to serve alcohol on them. Winter causes smokers to quit too.

Hope Philly can jump on the bandwagon and stay on. I do agree with Ilana, more fines = more money, more money = raises for politicians. They'll enforce it in other people's public places.