The floor is open #2

Unfortunately this time I have no pictures. Please don’t shun me and read on anyway, if you have the answer your recompense is my happiness… 🙂

Question: Why will we more readily give a homeless person a cigarette than some spare change?

Hypotheses of my own:

1. Perhaps it is because they can only do one thing with it, you know how it will be used. Hmm… this suggests some kind of paternalistic control need being filled…

2. Perhaps it is because there is some sort of kinship felt between smokers. A kinship based on shared knowledge of the physical feeling you get from having a smoke and from needing a smoke when one is not readily available.

3. Perhaps it is because money seems more valuable than a cigarette. Though this is what prompted me to ask this question in the first place, because with how much a pack costs these days, the literal cost of each cigarette must be similar to spare change you might give anyway. Ah, but then again of course money is always going to be more valuable because you can do anything with it, unlike a cigarette…

Ideas ideas, but I’d be curious to hear especially from people who do smoke and have engaged in this smoker’s generosity. It doesn’t necessarily have to be towards a homeless person either… It’s just seemed to me that many smokers are quite relaxed about sharing their cigarettes, even though these are precious items to them. Or maybe… smokers’ reliance on cigarettes makes them more aware of karma, that they’ll only get when they’re in need if they give to others. I’ve definitely noticed though that there is less reluctance to give up a cigarette than a couple of coins.

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5 thoughts on “The floor is open #2

  1. As a smoker, I would say that is a very hard thing to answer or even understand really. I think you’ve outlined many of the aspects. I would also add, in reference to the homeless. It helps put them out of their misery. I’m not saying there aren’t happy homeless people rocking about. It just seems to me, many smokers consciously or unconsciously understand or let smoking represent a physical apathy towards life. A Pyhrric battle with time if you like.
    we know the end game with smoking and that we will lose, if as a smoker youve tried other drugs. its plain to see theres little to no buzz physical or psychological elevation to be gained. its only promise is a quicker meeting with the maker. so I guess im saying smokings a death wish. smokers instantly feel re pour to such a lemming like tendency. on a Hippie level it also lets you give positive compassionate energy to or rather from an initial negative. chur chur thats my 2.cents

  2. Wow. I had not seen that perspective coming. That’s pretty heavy.

    All the same, happiness for more insight from even just one who knows 🙂 Thankee B! Brrrrt!

    Definitely gives me more to mull over…

  3. Well unfortunately (or fortunately) I am not a smoker.

    However I do have a question? Where did you come up with the initial question as to why smokers are more willing to give a cigarette than money? From my experience, unless the smoker is well off to begin with, he jealously protects his cigarettes and even when he shares them, it’s with some reluctance so I don’t think it is universal theme.

    However I have some mullings over the matter. A cigarette is kinda like a luxury good with no connotations of necessity. Yes to some it is a necessity but I don’t think society views it on the same level as food, clothes and a home.

    For me, sometimes although I want to help someone homeless, I am a bit apprehensive that my gift to them if it’s food or clothes will be met with a ‘I don’t need your sympathy/help scumbag’ sort of response. Many homeless people cling on to their pride and perhaps that’s what keeps them tough on the street. I have had several bad experiences like this.

    But a cigarette has no such ‘sympathy/i am so generous’ sort of connotation because you are offering something that is seen by society to give pleasure rather than meeting a need (as I said this may be a necessity for the smoker but that doesn’t matter since that is not how general society views it).

    So this may be an added incentive for a smoker to share a cig rather than money.

    I would still think the primary reason (if the initial hypotheses is true anyway) would be kinship. You would help someone whom you understand how it feels like. Kinda how many of these rich people set up foundations for very specialized disabilities, because they know what the loss is like.

    Although I don’t think it is true that all smokers smoke to end life quicker. I agree with B that smoking can be one way of manifesting that apathy to life as do people who indulge in alcohol for the same reasons.

    It just seems hard to believe that most people will give cigarettes to perform a kind of euthanasia for someone. I would think its more of something to help them escape. Money doesn’t help you escape, it just makes you realize the realities and desperation of your situation more.

  4. Hmmm, I would be interested to learn where most of your observations of smokers’ reluctance to share their cigarettes have taken place. Maybe there is a cultural factor at play too… I’ve noticed this generosity in New Zealand and definitely in France, where everyone I had any real interaction with during my time on the Southwest coast was a smoker. Truth be told, the people I stayed with were exceptionally generous people, and the people of this area are proactively nice. However I asked myself this question quite a long time ago, before France, before Switzerland… so it must have been an encounter I witnessed in Spain that got me thinking. A homeless, or at least very unkempt wandering-looking fella, walked up to a well-dressed man and politely asked if he had a cigarette. The other guy said something to the effect of “Oh yeah, sure”, got his pack out and gave him one. Presumed homeless man thanked him graciously, well-dressed man responded genuinely with a “No problem”, and that was it.

    Granted, well-dressed man here probably was a naturally nice guy. His ease with the whole situation and the fact that he didn’t let his clothes make him think that he shouldn’t hobnob speaks to that. Maybe he would have in fact given him money if he had asked for that instead. But this encounter caused a sort of flashback to other instances of cigarette-sharing I’ve seen. Between strangers, between light acquaintances and between friends.

    I think I’m referring more to giving in response to someone’s request for something, rather than to offering a homeless person something out of one’s own initiative.

    I’m not entirely understanding what you’re saying about how offering a luxury good takes away the “i am so generous” sense. I would imagine the pride-driven rejection being more to do with being offered something when you never asked for it, or being offered something else instead of what was asked for? Like if someone asks for money and you say “Oh how about breakfast?”. I mean, I have often personally felt that I’d feel happier knowing I was giving them decent food or a good jacket or something. Partly because I’d like something substantial for them but also definitely, because I feel that concern for how “my money” is being spent, it is a control thing… you know what’s “good” and you only want to contribute to the “good”, so you play the parent. I’m not saying this mindset is ideal; I’m saying I have definitely been through it, and I can understand a homeless person feeling resentful about it. I can understand that it’s hard to ask for things too, particularly when most people show they think you’re scum. Or nothing.

    I do sense something in what you’re saying though about how there is less of a sense of “sympathy” in the giving of a cigarette. What I feel from that is that maybe it is related to a sort of equality felt between smokers. Which also makes me think of what B said… having never smoked, I think I can never get a hint of what’s really going on there, whether it’s related to an apathy towards life or a passive death wish. But I have a suspicion that there is something shared by smokers at some other level. Sort of like how you can have fans of a certain team (for sport) from all “strata” of society and walks of life, who can see each other as equal once they become aware that the other is a fan as well because they know the other person experiences the sorts of thrills and hopes and “religion” that they do. They’re not necessarily going to be best friends but might treat these people differently than if they didn’t know they were fans too. My English is turning to crap here. But I don’t know… intuitively I feel like there’s a sort of complicity between smokers. I guess what I’m wondering with this whole question is whether smoker’s generosity is driven by something different than regular generosity. Ignoring how to define “regular generosity”…

    Good point about those who jealously guard their cigarettes though. I personally feel that I have witnessed more smoker generosity than smoker selfishness, but mine is only one life of observation. This post might be coming entirely out of my ass.

  5. I guess there are other questions I could ask to clarify. Such as:

    How precious is a cigarette? How much has to be overcome in order to feel free to give one up? Or, is there nothing to overcome?

    Maybe it’s simpler with a cigarette. You give or you don’t, and you expect it will be used pretty much straight away.
    Like if someone asked for a mint or to borrow a pen (and you know… there’s always the chance you won’t get your beloved pen back…). Whereas with money or “bigger” or more personal things like clothing or other belongings of yours, whether the request comes from a homeless person or a friend, there are more questions to trigger self-doubt, suspicion of the other’s intention, and general philosophical questions about who you think you are and what you believe about the world.

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