A final train-themed blog. This time, a true story from the smoking car…
NEWS BLOG (WSAU) 1992. I was headed back to college at Syracuse on Amtrak Train 63. I almost missed it, climbing aboard just as she began to pull out of Grand Central Station. The train was full. The only seats available were in the smoking car. I don’t smoke… but I didn’t want to stand either. So I made the best of a not-so-good situation.
Train 63’s final destination was Toronto. It was pulled by an American engine to Niagara Falls, where a Canadian locomotive took over. On this day’s run, the train was staffed by a Canadian conductor and his two assistants.
Even in 1992, job rules in Canada require that all employees have a smoke-free work environment. The conductor got on the PA and asked all passengers to put out their cigarettes until all the tickets were collected. It would take about 15 minutes. Then they were free to smoke again.
You would have thought the passengers were just told the train jumped the tracks. There was lots of grumbling. A few obscenities were heard. Some smokers refused. Others lit up as soon as their tickets were collected, when the conductor had moved just a few seats down the isle. For me, it was a first look at some of the ill-will that existed between smokers and non-smokers.
This kind of over-reaching goes the other way too. Consider the smoking ban being considered for the UW-Stevens Point campus. Of course it includes an indoor smoking bad. That’s universal in Wisconsin come this July. But what about a smoking ban in the dormitories? While a student living in a dorm is not a traditional landlord-tenant relationship, do students have some limited right to smoke in what amounts to their home? What about smoking on the outdoor grounds of the campus? Is anyone harmed by a person lighting up in an open area?
I don’t smoke. My five hour train ride to Syracuse was miserable… full of watery eyes and a headache, and a smell that seemed to linger on my clothes for days. But I was in the smoking car. The people sitting near me had the right. And it’s a right that has since been taken away. There are no smoking cars anymore. And a five-hour train ride to Syracuse is a long stretch for someone who has a smoking habit.
Smokers have been pushed around, a lot. And I’ve seen there is a point when they start to push back.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau