I am just shaking my head. Literally. Someone in the French government decided it might be nice to imitate Ireland and Italy by proposing a smoking ban in all public places. At least that's what La Nouvelle République, the Loire Valley's main daily, is reporting.
Talk about your useless laws! There is already a law, la loi Evin, prohibiting smoking except in designated areas of all sorts of buildings from schools to restaurants. Does anyone pay attention to it? Hell no! Getting the French to stop smoking would be like getting George Bush to learn English: We all know it's never going to happen.
David Sedaris wrote lovingly of France's favorable smoking practices extensively in his hilarious book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. He recounts tales of smoking, not just in hospital waiting rooms, but in the actual patient care rooms themselves. The best example of the French relationship with smoking I've ever seen was in Jean-Pierre Melville's film Le Cercle rouge (1970). In one memorable scene, the main character is trying to escape the police by hiding out in the trunk of a car, driven by his partner in crime. They reach a clearing where both exit the car, exchange money with some other criminals, and the trunk-dweller lights a cigarette. Two seconds later, the cops are detected and both men have to get back into the vehicle. The guy gets back into the trunk with his lit cigarette, not wanting to waste it. The moment is so French, it's classic. I mean, if you're going to asphyxiate yourself, why not do it twice as efficiently?
When I lived in France, Nina, the grandmother of Guillaume, mon petit charge, told me that her husband had been a prominent pulmonologist in Tours and had owned several sanatoriums for tubucular women. She then informed me that he had been a heavy smoker all his life and eventually died of lung cancer. A pulmonologist. That just blew my mind. We've all heard the saying about the shoemaker's children running barefoot, but I think this was taking it a bit too far. This same woman also informed me that, for many years, her husband used the front rooms of their house as his office. His office--where he treated tubercular patients. This sort of flippant attitude is perhaps what interests me most about the French as a people. Sometimes I wish I could harvest it and bask in the feeling of not caring about work or sanitation--life's just one big vacation in l'Hexagone.