Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Most of you probably begin by having no idea what "smirting" means. I was also in the dark until last week when I read a (an?) hilarious article in the Munich daily tabloid Abendzeitung. The starting point of the article was a report on Germany's painful and embarrassingly slow progress toward creating non-smoking areas in daily public life, especially in restaurants, where smoking still runs rampant -- even in designated "no smoking" sections of restaurants, as I discovered recently at the Osteria in Munich.

The Abendzeitung reported on the Irish experience. Ireland has, of course, banned smoking entirely in pubs and restaurants. And that has led to a fascinating new phenomenon: men and women, especially younger men and women, must get up from their restaurant tables or their pub stools and step outside to smoke. And so they do, in all kinds of weather, and with generally good cheer, as I observed on a recent trip to Dublin. While outside they naturally congregate. While thus standing together they not only smoke, but the natural camaraderie of the oppressed clicks in, and they flirt! Why not? What a perfect opportunity to make contact with someone you would not dare approach inside the pub. Hence, the delightful new word "smirting." The perceptive Irish have realized that the dreaded smoking ban has created a huge new opportunity to score.

So far, so good. Now the story gets ugly. What does the hapless non-smoker, left sitting alone at the table inside the restaurant, do when all the action is taking place outside? He or she cannot just walk out and try to pass as a smoker. That is lame and bound to fail. The hard core outside the door will recognize and reject a poseur. So what does he or she do? He or she takes up smoking, that's what! And what does the well-intentioned, health-conscious smoker who knows he or she should quit do? Forget it, step outside, light up and connect!

Who would have thought?

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