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Friday, January 1, 2010

Smoke Screen

Just finished reading a chapter in Protecting Your Children From Sexual Predators, by Dr. Leigh Baker. An excellent well-written book, I would highly recommend it as an awareness resource. It makes me mad, though. Mad because there are so many predators out there and because children are the most vulnerable and the ones most preyed on.

It's like when we were sitting in the DMV yesterday. Michael and I were chatting about different things, and somehow the issue of second-hand smoke came up. Did you know that it is now illegal to smoke in California if a minor is in your car? I didn't, guess it must be a new law they passed recently, and I'm very grateful for it. I'm also grateful for Koop, who I don't know personally and haven't really heard very much about, actually, but Michael read his autobiography for English class last semester and said he is responsible for pushing laws against smoking in public places.

I still remember the days we would fly back to Europe on furlough and we would be seated in the non-smoking section of the airplane. Today, just about all major airlines have a no-smoking policy, but back then, if you were unlucky and got seated in the non-smoking row immediately behind the smoking row, well, you might as well have sat in the smoking row for all the good it did you, as you inhaled the noxious fumes of chain-smokers as soon as the little red lights went off overhead.

When I visited Europe last year, I realized how blessed we are in California to have all these no-smoking-in-public-places rules as I struggled to find a breath of fresh air in the cities. Today I almost take it for granted that the strongest smell I will encounter in a public area will be someone's perfume or a Starbucks coffee. Until I went to the DMV.

As we sat there, having moved on to another topic of conversation, our nostrils began to pick up a rather intolerable stench that was beginning to pervade the room. One of the 59 people waiting there on a busy Thursday afternoon had just been smoking, and rather profusely it appeared.

I'm not a very tolerant person. I am adaptable, my mother tells me, but not tolerant. Brought up to be polite when in public and around guests and visitors, I am constantly concerned that I might offend someone and am tuned in to the nonverbal cues as to what my behaviour should or should not be. Unfortunately, however, I seem to be cursed with perfect pitch when it comes to picking up on behaviours that irritate me. Washing machines going at 6 am on a Sunday morning, people who talk but never ever listen, and taking the last cookie without asking if anyone else would like one, are some for-instances, but I'll save that for another blog.

Back to the DMV. Sitting there, inhaling second-hand smoke against my personal preference, I became quite upset. I understand, smoking isn't the only way to ruin your health and you can do it just as well by overeating, not getting enough sleep, or doing any of a number of things. But those are personal choices. Smoking is one of those things where if a person chooses to smoke, every single person who comes into their vicinity is unwillingly suffering the consequences of that person's choice to smoke as they inhale the second-hand smoke. Apparently tests have shown that it takes a full 24 hours for traces of second-hand smoke to completely leave a person's body. If someone chooses to smoke, they may say it's their own choice, and I will not tell them what to do. What I will not tolerate, however, is when their choice imposes on my right to breathe air that is not contaminated with their smoke.

The same goes for sexual predators. Anyone who is a victim did not choose to share the predator's sick behaviours. Yet, victims have no say in what happens. Unfortunately, our society is not set up to protect the innocent to the extent that it should be. When will justice be avenged on this earth? A million millstones need to be prepared, and even those would not be enough. . .

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