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

Vote Crack Back

I enjoy being somewhere I've never been before. A different bike route home, getting groceries at a new grocery store, an ethnic restaurant on the other side of town. Sometimes my work takes me to these places. Cities like Paris (France), Santa Monica (California), or Alexandria (Ontario).

I have an affinity for small towns because it is where I come from. I know what they are. They are a unit, a community, an entity. A small town is a solid place to be from. But growing up in a small town on the prairies I left me thinking, there must be more to it than this.

There is.

There is plenty to see, to do, to feel, to eat, to touch, to hear out there. Wherever there is. The world is your oyster. That's what being from a small town teaches you. It teaches you that you can go anywhere and talk to anyone. Or maybe that was just my dad. That's what he does. I love him dearly and marvel at his skill. He will talk to anyone. At length. Anytime. About anything.

But the thing is...where you are, is where you're at.

So now I live in the city that Canada loves to hate. It's busy and congested and smelly and it has a lot of great restaurants. And on an evening of an election for our new mayor, I wish I were in a smaller place. A simpler place. I really don't need that much.

But I voted. Where I live. In Toronto. I did my civic duty. Will it make a difference?

What struck me in Alexandria were the simple, bilingual signs: "Re-elect Grant Crack for Mayor"

I have no doubt if I were to dig deeper into this community I would find a cast of characters rich enough to complete a hearty collection of short stories, an anthology of plays, a film crammed with local, admirable wonders.

Fargo (North Dakota). I vacationed there as a teen.

Enough said.

About Alexandria:

North Glengarry is a township in eastern Ontario, Canada, in the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. It is a 69% rural area located between Ottawa-Hull, Montreal and Cornwall-Massena. The current township of North Glengarry was created on January 1, 1998 by amalgamating the former townships of Kenyon and Lochiel with the villages of Maxville and Alexandria.

The township comprises the urban community of Alexandria (population 3,287) and the rural communities of Apple Hill, Athol, Baltics Corners, Breadalbane, Brodie, Dalkeith, Dominionville, Dornie, Dunvegan, Fairview, Fassifern, Fiskes Corners, Glen Robertson, Glen Sandfield, Greenfield, Guaytown, Kirkhill, Laggan, Lochiel, Lochinvar, Lorne, Maxville, McCormick, McCrimmon, Pine Grove, St. Elmo and Stewarts Glen.

Alexandria is served five or six times a day by the Montreal-Ottawa VIA Rail trains which almost all stop there, in each direction.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Glengarry,_Ontario