I figured that after the conference - since I'm already States-side - I'd make the trip down to DC, where Sophie has just started a Congress internship with the House Representative from her home district. Also, I've never seen Washington, and I love going to new places.
I emailed the conference organizer, Debbie G, asking whether there were any attendees coming from around the DC area that I might be able to arrange to carpool with to Washington after the weekend. She put me in touch with Frank B, who is driving through Philadelphia - a mere couple hours' bus ride from the capitol.
The exchange with Frank over facebook started simply enough. Debbie had contacted him to ask whether he had room for a stowaway en route to Philly, and he messaged me:
Frank: "do you smoke?
would you be with us both ways or what?
can you do some of the driving?"
"I do smoke," I replied candidly, "but would have no problem restricting the whole 'cancer research' thing to when we're on pit stops."
I told Frank that I'd be happy to help with the driving, though I'd only be with him for the return trip. I let him know that I have plenty of highway experience, especially in the US, and that as long as his car was automatic-transmission, I could take shifts behind the wheel.
I figured that the rest would be a simple matter of hammering out the final details (the route we're taking, how much I should pitch for gas, how he wants to arrange the driving shifts...) at the conference this weekend. Then I got this curt reply:
"I'm sorry, but I can't spend 8 hours in a car with a smoker. if you were to get back into the car after a pit stop smelling like smoke that would make me angry to the point where I could not drive safely. You'll have to find some other means of transportation to DC. You may still want to coordinate with Barry G, he also smokes and therefor will not be traveling with me."
As a matter of common courtesy, I never smoke in someone's car unless they explicitly say that it's okay. Even when someone else is in my car, I make sure that they're comfortable with me smoking before I light up. If they're just saying "yes" to be nice, I can usually tell, and I'll refrain from smoking anyway.
But this is fucking rediculous. It's one thing if he's allergic to tobacco, or if I weren't willing to smoke facing downwind, but this is beyond sanctimonious. I get the impression that it's not the smell of smoke ("if you were to get back into the car after a pit stop smelling like smoke") that riles him, but the sheer fact that I smoke at all (I can't spend 8 hours in a car with a smoker).
I'm now realizing that this is a man who would have spent 8 perfectly good hours wasting my precious oxygen. He's essentially saying that the merest hint of tobacco will throw him into an apoplectic fury, rendering him completely unfit to safely operate a vehicle. Whether out of some sub-rational impulse, or sanctimonious douchebaggery, he's essentially saying that if I were in the car, he'd probably wrap it around a tree.
If I take what he said at face value, then this kind of person should not be allowed to drive. What happens if he's driving along with the windows down and the scent of cigarette smoke wafts in from the sidewalk? Will he mow down the next pedestrian in indignant rage? Does this extend to smelly and polluting paper mills and refineries?
Don't get me wrong. Smoking is a stupid, dangerous, filthy habit, and I'm in the process of cutting down my intake before I make the final push of stopping all together this fall. I'm 20 years old, and far too young to waste my life and money smoking.
That doesn't change the fact that Frank B is an idiot.