Friday, October 15, 2004

The Best Place to Smoke

The latest issue of Tribune announces:
A new and unpublicised rule, which bans students and staff from smoking at the bus stop immediately outside Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), says that first offenders will be given a warning, while those caught a second time will be slapped with a $40 fine.


I'm not a smoker, so this doesn't affect me so much. But I know people who are smokers.

For them, it's a perpetual cat-and-mouse game with the wardens, hiding in a remote corner of the campus (staircase landing, toilet, high-altitude corridor, etc.) to enjoy (if they can) their fag, while being prepared to bolt once they sense that a warden is near. And somehow, the warden is always near.

So one day this friend of mine asks me for advice. He wants a convenient place to smoke (no need to walk 5 minutes just to get there), and he wants to be safe from the pesky wardens. He wants his fag and smoke it too.

I've seen people smoking in canteen 1, I've seen smoking at the atrium, and it seems to me they don't get caught.

But I suspected that going to the canteen or atrium is still a little too much trouble for that lazy friend (why are we friends anyway?).

I'm the type that likes to wax philosophical before giving advice, so the recipient will appreciate the philosophical foundations of my profound wisdom.

"You heard that the most dangerous place is the safest place?"

"Yup."

"I'm sure you also know that moving targets are harder to hit?"

"Yeah." (He had already completed his NS.)

"So you tell me what you think would be a good solution." (I have this irritating habit of trying to make people think.)

Brief pause.

"Dunno lah. Just tell me lah." (He's not the type that likes to think.)

"I would think that the best and most convenient place to smoke is when you're walking openly in campus, like when you're walking to the canteen."

"You're nuts. The wardens will catch me!"

"Look, the wardens are not in the smoker-hunting mode when they're walking along in the open. They only hunt for smokers in the deserted alleys and dark corners."

After some protesting, he still couldn't argue with my wisdom, nor could he resist peer pressure, especially when the peer had just given him a perfectly-timed reassuring pat on his shoulder, so he numbly lit his Marlboro as we walked towards the canteen.

Nothing happened, although I wondered if he really enjoyed the smoke. But he seemed pretty much convinced.

The true test of my "wisdom" came when we were in the path of a warden some days later, and there was no escaping without arousing suspicion. I felt responsible to help him out.

"Guess what, there's a warden ahead."

"Oh @#$%!"

"Relax. Just keep walking normally. Act like your grandfather owns the school. Listen intently to what I'm saying to you, so that it looks like you're deep in an intellectual discussion, and you're trying very hard to hear what I'm saying despite the noise..."

The warden walked right by us.

"... and there's really no need to turn back to look yet, until we're at a safe distance."

When the warden was out of sight, he took in a deep breath (through the fag of course), and let out a smoke-filled sigh.

It pays to listen to my advice sometimes.

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