Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bumper-to-bumper parenting

As much as I hate being off my bicycle during the winter, my malaise is pretty much offset by the fact that I get to drive into town with my wife and kids every weekday morning. London's not a huge city, so we're only talking a total of 15 minutes in the car. But that's often enough for something notable to happen. With that in mind, I give you yesterday morning:

We were sitting at a red light in one of London's infamous traffic jams - you know, seven cars in a row - when my wife noticed an arm come out of the driver's side window of the van in front of us. The driver tapped on a cigarette in the universal better-to-mess-up-the-road-than-my-vehicle maneuver before retracting said hand inside for another cool drag of some luscious nicotine.

My ever-observant wife shook her head in disbelief upon spotting Part 2 of this sad scene: the handle of an infant carrier in the middle of the rear seat. Lovely, we both thought at the same moment: a parent who cares so much about the welfare of his child that he'll smoke inside the vehicle.

Two or three decades ago, when smoking wasn't the social equivalent of leprosy that it is today, perhaps this was considered acceptable behavior. As a child, I can recall many an evening when my parents, afraid to offend visitors to our home, would allow them to literally turn the air blue while I tried to barricade myself in my room to escape the fumes.

Times have changed, yet this kind of thing still persists. Of course, the times also dictate that we keep these things to ourselves, since you never know when someone will beat you with a tire iron for so much as tsk-tsking in their general direction. So we said and did nothing.

The light turned green. The van drove away. A baby sat in the rear, breathing the smoke of a parent too stupid to understand, or to care.

BTW, I'm not exactly unbiased on this issue: I wrote a column entitled Fuming over smoking litterbugs last July. I guess that makes me a bit of a militant when it comes to smoking-related issues. I'm OK with that.


Rhodent said...

Good post! It is amazing to me that anyone smokes anymore.

Christine said...

Genuine wrote a similar post over at JuJuBee's site ( This kind of thing just makes me furious! If you don't care about your own health, at least care about the health of your baby!!

Sadly, I have seen this, too. I wish there was something I could do, but as you pointed out, you can't risk someone pulling a gun on you because you made them mad. Just sad!

Ottawa Pocket Watches said...

It is difficult to understand why someone would smoke with a child in the car. In car smoking is apparently the hot trend. Watch as you drive...every second person seems to be smoking.

As for London traffic jams, yes they are laughable compared to what larger cities call real traffic jams. Most Londoners would freak out to drive/park on Ottawa's Queensway at rush hour. That being said, London is small but can be incredibly difficult to traverse at peak times. The city has grown but the road infrastructure hasn't. It's always a shock to me when I'm there. The Horton Street extension seems to be the only significant change.

L said...

I feel the same way...

I was so happy when Florida passed the ban on indoor smoking -- now I can actually go out to eat a nice dinner and actually taste the food! I don't have to worry about asthma attacks as much, either...

I can't wait for smoking to become extinguished

Suzanne said...

That anyone still smokes in this day and age amazes me! It also makes my skin crawl to see a parent subject their innocent children to their careless behaviour! This is one of my few soap boxes I jump up on and can't stop. Smoking! ugh!

psuche said...

I happen to be a smoker. It is amazing the meme’s ( that people will accept as facts about the whole smoking debate without actually figuring out if they are true or not. I have found that there is no connection with second hand smoke to cancer through my own research (here is one link that is actually in defense of true science and smokers: ). Do the research yourself before you accept the standard dogma.

As a side note, even though the science behind the cancer link is bogus I still will not smoke around anyone who does not like the smell or has fear of it. It is no bother to me. Nor do I subject any ‘possible’ dangers to adolescents who can’t make up their own minds on the issue. So over all I agree that smoking with a baby in a closed vehicle is not the most responsible thing to do.

Red said...

You're just a good person, Carmi :) I know I'm repeating myself, but you are.

Many people just don't think about it these days.

My mother smoked through all three of us children, and my sister and I both have lung problems, my brother has perpetual sinus issues, and I had tubes in my ears as a baby when infection moved from my lungs.

I'm not saying that these are necessarily solely attributed to my mother's smoking habit, but I will say that they do contribute.

Even when I'm around a smoker these days, my eyes water, I can smell it on them (even if they're not lit up), something catches in my throat like the preamble of a cough...

As much as I respect peoples' rights to kill themselves slowly and painfully by accumulating tar in their internal organs and suffocating their blood, they should not have the right to force that on those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Excellent post. I'm sorry you had to see that.