When I walk my dog in the mornings, I rarely see anyone on the street. I pass the brick cottages and neatly trimmed lawns, my inquisitive Basset Hound in one hand, a plastic bag in the other. We groggily meander the sidewalks, sniffing out traces of squirrels and Taco Bell wrappers. Listening to podcasts syndicated by NPR and PRI, Ellie and I generally make our way back to the apartment without event or catastrophe. Sometimes we encounter a stray dog, or a child on their way to school, but for the most part, it's a solitary journey.
This morning we saw something worth noting. It wasn't so much an interaction as it was an observation.
The White Mile
As we exited the apartment this morning, we were blasted with the frigid wind of a twelve degree morning. Ellie dove into the snow, painting it yellow as she relieved herself in the three inch powder. We then began our trot down the alley. Our brisk pace was not due to any love of exercise, but rather a vain effort to keep from turning into living ice sculptures.
As we rounded the block, we jogged passed a house that bore signs of life. On the concrete front porch of this two story brick bungalow, a frumpy woman, mid 30's, stood stoically smoking a cigarette. The woman in and of herself was not notable, except for her chosen wardrobe.
Hot Pants in the Cold Dawn
Her head was covered with a nondescript stocking cap ('toque' for the Canadians out there – or a 'tousle cap' if you are my grandfather). She had an over-sized ski jacket on that draped over her shoulders and overshadowed her mittened hands as she tried to light the tobacco stick.
The woman's bottom half was clad in naught but a pair of hot pants. No shoes, socks, or slippers. No jeans, snow-pants, or even pajama bottoms. It seems that her need to ingest that cigarette had overwhelmed her desire to avoid frostbite. I realize addictions are fierce masters, but I always assumed that pants would take priority over cigarettes.
I may be making some unfair assumptions. Perhaps, in her rush to put on her down jacket, gloves, and a hat, she left her pants sitting on the floor of her bedroom. Right next to her common sense.
I tried not to stare as she stood in the doorway of her home, seemingly not phased by the biting cold. Hopefully the incredulous look on my face was masked by my own teeth chattering.
The Smoker's Motto
I've always wondered about a smokers audacious ability to brave any weather for their cigarette. It's commendable, that dedication. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these smokers from the swift completion of their addicted vices.
But most have the common sense to put on pants before inhaling. Maybe there should be a new warning on cigarette cartons:
Warning: Excessive use of cigarettes can lead to a loss of common sense. And pants. It will eventually lead to frostbite, if the first two conditions occur.
This is what I take away from this naked legged woman from the suburban tundra:
Smoke. Smoke whatever you want. Smoke wherever you want. Smoke with whomever you want. Just wear pants while doing it. For everyone's sake.