happy fuming holidays

December 21, 2011

James Corkum
Operations Manager
Oxford Properties
20 Bay Street, Ground Floor
Toronto ON M5J 2N8

RE: smoking at entrances to 20 Bay Street

Dear James Corkum,

This letter, if you are not already aware, is to bring to your attention the fact that people regularly smoke cigarettes outside all entrances to 20 Bay Street. They smoke very near the sign pictured above. I would go so far as to bet five dollars there is someone standing there right now, the North entrance in particular, smoking.

On several occasions earlier this year, while parking and locking my bike near the North entrance, I took the opportunity to ask people if they were aware of the sign. I asked if they would mind moving, about 50 feet west, to the area designated for smokers that has benches and ashtrays and planters filled with mother-in-law’s-tongue.

A variety of responses followed.

“Oh sure, of course,” one woman said and headed toward the benches.

“No problem,” said another two men.

“Sure, sure, sorry,” said another.

“Yeah, I know,” said one woman, and continued to smoke and chat with her friend right next to the sign.

One man simply turned his back and pretended like he couldn’t hear me asking him a question. Behavior not unlike a four year old.

“Oh here,” said one guy who proceeded to take a step down onto the sidewalk, “How’s that?”
To which I replied, “Not very good”. He was maybe four metres away from the door, not nine. Nine meters North of the sign would put him in the middle of two lanes of Eastbound traffic on Harbour Street.

“Do you have a measuring tape?” another one asked. I told him I did and he told me to go get Security if it bothered me that much. I informed the woman at the Oxford Properties office on the main floor and she said that she would ask Security to go have a look.

Others told me that I should park my bike elsewhere, and one person simply shook their head, no, they were not interested in moving.

When I asked them why they didn’t use the smoking area provided, no one answered. I guess it was obvious. It didn’t need to be said.

The answer is that it’s easier to stand right beside the door rather than walk 50 feet.

My question to Oxford Properties is this: Why are you not enforcing the messaging on the sign, in red lettering, on every window next to each entrance of the building which clearly states: No smoking within nine meters of entrance?

The City of Toronto’s website in the Q&A section states:

Q: Are there smoking restrictions outside of buildings?
A: Smoking outside of buildings is not covered by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, with the exception of buildings such as health care facilities, where smoking is prohibited within nine metres of entrances or exits.


20 Bay is not a health care facility. If the action is not being enforced, why is there a sign there at all?

As someone who works at 20 Bay Street, someone who enters and exits the building on a regular basis, I find these people who stand there and smoke, for the most part, to be offensive, self centered, egotistical, condescending, childish, unpleasant and rude. I really don’t care if they smoke. That is their choice. I care where they smoke. They get away with the disgusting and shameful behavior because they can.

I commute by bicycle for the majority of the year and am forced to breathe in second hand smoke while I park and lock my bike. I find this to be a violation of basic human decency. Common courtesy. Perhaps it is expecting too much for people to have manners, compassion, consideration and respect for each other.

A woman at the 20 Bay Oxford Properties office informed me that Security doesn’t have time to stand out there policing the entrances all day long.

So what else is to be done?

Paint a line on the ground indicating where nine metres ends? Try to embarrass the smokers in front of their peers? Start coughing loudly while pretending to have asthma? I tried that and a woman told me that the pollution I had just ridden through on my bike was worse than inhaling her second hand smoke. This comment is all things laughable, sad and wrong.

I used to smoke. I have close friends and family members who smoke. I get that it’s hard to quit. It was the hardest thing I have ever to do. What I don’t get it why the smokers outside 20 Bay Street assume they have the right to smoke anywhere they want.

This is not a lecture about quitting smoking. This is plea for respect.

To quote the late Christopher Hitchens, from his book God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything "It [religious faith] will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other."

Much like religious vs. non-religious, I think the argument between smokers and non-smokers is destined to continue for quite some time.

I am not asking people to stop smoking. I am asking that people who choose to smoke do so in a place that does not directly affect those who choose not to smoke.

I want nothing more than to end this issue, this defense, this letter.

We don't always get what we want.

I would feel better if the signs were removed. At least then I wouldn’t have an argument. I could refrain from interacting with the thoughtless people who are in no way concerned about the health and well being of fellow citizens.

Instead, I have decided to make a documentary.

With such proximity to a subject as this, I am unable to pass up the opportunity. I am writer/producer/director who works in the media, marketing and communications industry. This letter appears on my blog.

I look forward to your participation in the project in the coming months.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.


Lana Pesch

time is of the essence

This is what 5:45 p.m. E.D.T looked like after we switched the clocks. It's darker now. So much for saving the daylight.

It's a month before Christmas and people are starting to panic, scurry, and deny that it is already this time of year. How time flies! It seems like only yesterday... Where does the time go?

It's time. It passes. We think we've got all the time in the world. We don't.

I'm reading God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens for bookclub.

He writes:

"The history of the cosmos begins, if we use the word "time" to mean anything at all, about twelve billion years ago. (If we use the word "time" wrongly, we shall end up with the infantile computation of the celebrated Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, who calculated that the earth -"the earth", alone, mind you, not the cosmos- had its birthday on Saturday, October 22, in 4004 BC, at six in the afternoon...

...As a species on earth, according to many sanguine experts, we do not have many more eons ahead of us.

If you've got time, you could read the book yourself. Unless you think it would be a waste of time.

I am with Ursula K. Le Guin, 80, and her take on spare time. In her blog [http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Blog2010.html] she said it best when filling out an anonymous questionnaire for the sixtieth reunion of Harvard.

Ursula writes:

"...to the Questioners of Harvard my lifework has been a “Creative Activity,” a hobby, something you do to fill up spare time. Perhaps if they knew I’d made a living out of it they’d move it to a more respectable category; but I rather doubt it....

In my case I still don’t know what spare time is because all my time is occupied. It always has been and it is now. It’s occupied by living...

What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eighty-one tomorrow. I have no time to spare."

My friend's six year old daughter has a particularly good opinion about sexy time. The conversation went something like this:

"Mom, do you have sexy time with dad?"
My friend pauses - it's finally time for the talk.
"Thought so."
"What do you think sexy time is?"
"Oh, you get in your underwear together. Sometimes dance around."
My friend smiles.
"Did you have sexy time with boys before dad?"

Overtime. Theoretically spare time. Ideally not interfering with sexy time. At least you are being rewarded with cash.

Many songs have used time as a theme: Time in a Bottle, Working 9 to 5, Time is on My Side, Time After Time. Of course the famous line from Kenny Rogers The Gambler "...there'll be time enough for countin', when the dealin's done". And if you don't know when that is, perhaps you shouldn't be wasting your time, gambling.

"Just another five minutes." No. Neither right nor wrong, it always takes longer than you think, whatever it is. The laundry, dinner preparations, the drive home, writing this blog, your commute, sex!, editing a book, doing a workout, being on hold with a customer service representative, cleaning the back yard, shucking oysters at home, vacuuming, groceries, movie line ups, lunch, savouring that lofty, rich, expensive wine.

Time outs. In addition to disciplining children and pets, let's hope the Saskatchewan Roughriders keep strategy and due diligence top of mind with their time outs next weekend during the Grey Cup.

Once upon a time, I worked on a CBC TV show about lifestyle and culture. The executive producer told me about a story he tried to get. He was to film the caribou migration in the Yukon. They spent a week in the area filming everything but caribou.

At the beginning of each day when the light was good he would ask the Chief, do you think the caribou will run today? To which the Chief did not reply immediately. He stood. He looked. He breathed deeply. Three minutes passed. He stood. He watched. He turned and faced the east. Another minute. He turned the other way. One more minute.

Not today, he said and turned and went inside.

From the Lord of the Rings, 'The Shadow of the Past', Gandalf says it best,

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

I could go on but I'm out of time.