Confronting a smoker at the dog park

Confronting a smoker at the dog park

Ever since I heard about the city passing a smoking ban for all Chicago Park District property, I wondered how I would handle smokers should they light up in the dog park. I hate confrontations. Haaaaate confrontations. I can never think fast enough to come up with witty retorts to make people think. (That's my husband's job.)

Yet I confronted this bitchy lady at the dog park yesterday. Somehow. Without getting all worked up and anxious which I always feel over even the tiniest of confrontations.  I think pregnancy is making me more assertive.

More in tune with the part of me that is full of righteous indignation. Hell, it was part of my graduation speech/poem: "It does not do well at all/To sit around and complain," when one can actually DO something about it.

Usually that involves yelling obscenities at assholes who blow crosswalks while I'm in them, or calling 311 on cabbies that zoom through red lights so egregiously you can't even pretend they were in the intersection when it turned yellow. Or writing letters to put in the condo association's newsletter to let them know that yes, dogs are allowed in our building because emotional assistance animals and service dogs are required to be allowed according to federal law, so please don't give us dirty looks. Or assume Pepper's vicious just because the building also requires all dogs to wear muzzles in common areas even when they've never acted aggressive or have a bite history.

But this smoking ban is different. It involves actual one-on-one confrontations with the offenders. If you have the guts for it, that is. Not everyone is up for the task of public scorning, as Mary Schmich said, even though that's the main way of enforcing this new law.

So when this elderly lady (and I call her bitchy because, quite honestly, there is no other way of describing how she treats other people at the park) came into the park yesterday with her quite adorable little dog, I braced myself. She always smokes. Always. As soon as she sits down she brings out a cigarette and  lights up.

Sure enough, a white papery stick dangled out of her mouth as she fished around for her lighter. I wanted to talk to her before she lit up, so she doesn't feel like she's wasted a cigarette, you know? She might not know about the ban. So I walked right up to her.

Me: Excuse me ma'am? The city has a smoking ban in all the parks. Could you step out of the park to smoke, please?
Her: I didn't hear about that.
Me: It was in the Sun-Times and the Tribune.
Her: Well, I'm going to disobey that.
Me: If you do, I'm going to call 911. (knowing full well they won't come, but a threat's a threat).
Her: What a bitch!
Me: Yes, I am.

With that I turned around and sat back down. She glared at me, put away her cigarette, and left very shortly after. And quite honestly, everyone else in the park breathed a sigh of relief when she did. Her dog is fine. It was her who was the problem.

She came back today. As she entered the park, I waved and said, "Hi!" Her scowling face remained inscrutable behind the sunglasses, but I suspect she was debating whether or not to come in--but she did. And she refrained from smoking. Even if she smokes when I'm not there, she won't while I am. And that is success enough by my book.

(If I could think faster, I should have said, "It takes one to know one." or "Yes I am, and everyone thinks you are, too." or "So are you." but oh well.)

Filed under: misc.

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