Friday, June 02, 2006

Evacuate! I just farted*

From smelling like flowers, my post-gig panties are toxic enough to knock out a two-year-old toddler. Imagine what my outer clothes smell like.

Even now, the room reeks of stale cigarette smoke any clogged nose can trace to my post-gig bag. The hair’s washed and I’m relatively clean, but the olfactory offence remains. I don’t want to speculate how many minutes of my life was cut short tonight — not that I lead a very interesting existence anyway.

But the point of this post is not to give a lecture on public smoking and its ill-effects on the health of an innocent bystander. You see, there really is no point in this post at all.

I have just returned from Moonshine—an acoustic gig at The Curve’s Laundry Bar—where Qings and Kueens, Mia Palencia, Reza Salleh, and Couple played earlier. And boy was I excited when Melina Williams made a guest appearance on her five-string bass, smiling a little more than usual.

While the overall music failed to leave a big impression, what I discovered from my first Moonshine outing is that I need some gigging buddies. People who love live music and can endure uncomfortable standing positions, smoky rooms and questionable crowds. Tonight, my sole company left halfway because he couldn't stand the smoke. (To his credit, he took a walk and waited outside till I had my fill of music.)

I shall now tell you a humble little tale of a smoke-fearing ex-copywriter and how having smoker friends helped her overcome the fear.

( |o }===:::

Once upon a time, I worked with an ad agency. We worked long hours; stressed hours. Hours stuck in an office with no air-cond after 6pm. Hours stuck in an office where almost everyone smoked.

Nicotine calmed their nerves, and the familiar movement to and from the lips—inhale, exhale—became a crucial extension of their physiological posturing. Fagging was also an important social activity where the latest gossip within the company would be exchanged; Marlboros and Mild Sevens burning together; the muted orange glow counting down the lifeline of their conversations.

They usually smoked in the stairwells or near the lifts. But it was when they smoked inside, at their desks, that I almost died.

At once! In my mind! I would see an image of the respiratory passageway from my nasal cavity down to my lungs turn from a clear blue to red, spreading out across the veins, arteries and alveoli like the changing colours of karaoke lyrics; then to black, as the poison seeped into my condemned bloodstream. Every time I breathed this defiled air in, the image replayed itself, as I imagined my oxygen cells dying, withering, screaming in vain for some fresh air. I’m dying! My nose would start getting congested with grey snot and I’d get a headache. Subconsciously—and this is where the trouble really starts—I’d also try not to breathe.

I admit, holding your breath while trying to think of creative ideas isn’t very smart. Nonetheless, my body was just trying to preserve itself. I did try dropping some hints to my smoking colleagues, such as wrinkling my nose in disdain, but obviously, the smoke clouded their vision. I hated it/them.

The turning point came when some of these smoker colleagues became my friends. It was something you had to accept in a relationship — much like bad breath. I got used to lunches under the hot and humid Malaysian sun (i.e. smoking section), as less considerate colleagues blew smoke and bad breath in my face. I learnt to hide disgust when ash from other tables flew into my water and food. I’d gaze enviously at the diners inside, enjoying free air conditioning and piped in muzak. And when the awful haze came, my tolerance greatly improved. How on earth my colleagues could think of sitting outside in the thick of pollution while others were sweeping pharmacies clean of surgical masks is beyond me. But they still had to eat—and smoke—and so I joined them.

Perhaps what I’d like to say is this: although I don’t enjoy the smoky confines where live music often takes place, I’ve somewhat learnt to live with it. And thanks to my ex-colleagues, the mental image of me dying at that very moment! from tar and carbon monoxide poisoning now haunts me less.

I guess breathing in some smoke is better than not breathing at all.

*Taken from a cool T-shirt someone wore at the gig today.

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