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Compendium | Smoking on the terrace

A discussion with the Duck of the McGall Library

“You look unhappy.”

That is the Duck of the McGall Library – all of a sudden speaking to me. I hadn’t noticed her approach me while I stood smoking on the terrace outside the McLemon Library. She challenges me with an expression of frustration and disappointment, as I feel my confidence limping away along the tip of my cigarette.

“You mustn’t smoke here, young man. This is a Non-Smoking Area.”

I’m standing between two columns against the wall of McLemon, trying to find shelter from the pouring rain of a stormy late-April finals-fuck-you. According to the Duck of the Library, this cold alcove constitutes part of the Non-Smoking Area. Briefly, I look at the rain-drenched smoking area down the stairs and beyond the bridges. Not my first choice.

“The smoking area is over there, young man.”

The Duck of the Library happens to catch me at my best: I’ve been awake 37 hours studying for exams I will fail. My speedy gaze of worldly concern travels through eyes bloodshot and irritable.

“Young man…”

The Duck of the Library waits for me to submit to her courteous authority. Before me, the glorious terrace of McLemon is all but empty, except for the Duck of the Library, and maybe twenty plastic “no smoking” signs.

“You know, I quit smoking forty years ago, so I recognize how you might feel.”

She is extending an olive branch with all the lumber of a Trojan horse: the Duck of the Library empathizes with my situation, yet asserts her moral superiority over me by disclosing a previously overcome nasty habit.

“Your attitude is unbecoming, young man.”

The Duck is beginning to come out of her shell, so to speak.

“YOUNG MAN!”

The rain continues to splatter the sandwich boards of segregation. I take another drag from my cigarette, unsure of what to do next. The Duck of the Library is taking a stance on principle, intending to enforce the law of the library complex.

But it turns out that, while we discussed, I actually smoked my Camel Blue to the filter. I toss my butt in the direction of a nearby “no smoking”… suggestion!


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