The smoke encircled his head like a thief. And not in a saintly way. I was going to have to rethink this. You see, the culture of the early morning commute is one where you stand in line with strangers before dawn. Having grown up a victim of second-hand smoke at home, I can’t stand it now. Should I go wait in the line (which was growing) where the last guy was smoking, or sit in my car? Work anxiety always wins out in such situations, so off I trudged. I discovered, however, that the man in front of me wasn’t smoking after all. He was vaping. What was this chemical stew hanging in the air that had just come from his mouth?
I worry about second-hand vape. How desperate must a person be to smoke a device? You see, my trust in technology goes only so far. People are slowly beginning to understand that electronics don’t solve every problem. Vinyl records are starting to come back, even at Barnes and Noble. Independent bookstores are returning, despite the rise of Kindle. I’m still waiting for it, but film cameras may once again appear. There’s something about the Ding an sich. The tech of the stereo was invented for the analogue record. Yes, the MP3 is faster and cheaper, and you can buy just the song you want with the click of a virtual button, but we still have our favorite LPs around. This isn’t misplaced nostalgia, like those who long for the 1950s. No, this is simply the recognition that faster isn’t always better. Some things were meant to linger.
Vaping is, however, an example of how a bad habit becomes a vice with no point. Initially meant to come to the succor of smokers who couldn’t do it indoors, vaping was also quickly relegated to the outside. Many people, it seems, don’t want to breathe someone else’s smoke. Do you develop artificial cancer from artificial nicotine? Another commuter comes up to the guy in front of me. Like a couple of kids on a 1970s schoolyard, they exchange vape flavors. The first guy doubles up with a coughing fit. Spits off the curb. The second guy says, somewhat anticlimactically, that this one’s strong stuff. I have to wonder what future generations, if there’ll be any, will think of our love affair with devices. The bus pulls in. I’m the only one on the whole thing who clicks on the over seat light. I have a physical book to read.