stories

The Last of The Smoker - Chapter 1 - page 4

NO DOGS OR SMOKERS

This really annoyed me. So now they were treating us like dogs. "To hel l with the lot of them!" I thought. There was no way I was going to give in to that sort of oppression.

Once a month I had ten cartons of American 'More' cigarettes delivered to my house by the customer service section of one of the major department stores. At three thousand yen per carton, that meant that I wa s smoking my way through thirty thousand yen's worth a month, roughly seventy cigarettes every day. Then imports of foreign cigarettes were banned. Just before the ban, I bought about two hundred cartons, but once they were finished I had no choice but to switch to a Japanese brand.

One day I had to travel to Tokyo to put in an appearance at a literary party hosted by a publishing firm to whom I had been indebted for many years. I told my wife to buy me a ticket for the Bullet Train.

"Tickets in Smoking are an extra twenty percent," she said as she handed me the ticket she had bought. "And there's only one carriage you can smoke in. When I asked the man at the ticket counter for a seat in Smoking he looked at me as if I was some sort of animal."

On the day of my trip I boarded the carriage marked "Smoking." It was unbelievable: the seats were in tatters and the windows were covered with dirt, with little round bits of paper pasted over the numerous c racks in the glass. The floor of the carriage was littered with rubbish. Seven or eight passengers sat solemnly in their seats. On the ceiling a spider was spinning its web to the gloomy accompaniment of Grieg's piano concerto which filtered from speakers inside the carriage. The ashtrays on the seats had not been cleaned and were full of dog-ends. A sign posted on the door read: "Passage to other carriages is forbidden." The toilet for smokers at the back of the carriage had no flush, and a previous user had kindly left behind a great fat turd. There was no water supply for the sink, just a porcelain cup chained to a scoop-pump. I was furious. I decided to give the party a miss and at the next station I jumped off and took a taxi home. I had realized what I would have had to put up with at the party and at the hotel.