The Optional Smoking Room. Bruce in New York.

6th March, 2005

Staying at the Pierre, one of the best hotels in New York. Checked in and was asked if I wanted a smoking or non-smoking room. I said “non- smoking” and was shown to an attractive room on one of the top floors. It smelt heavily of cigars so I went downstairs immediately and confronted the serious young woman in a serious executive suit who I’d spoken to previously.

“I’m afraid the room you’ve given me is a smoking room. There’s a strong smell of cigars”.

“Oh. Let me check”.

She punched a number of keys on the computer and read some information from the screen.

“That’s not a smoking room,” she said, “that room is optional”.

“What does that mean?”

“It means you can smoke in it if you want to”.

It took me a few seconds to assimilate this information.

“But surely that means it’s a smoking room?”

“No. It’s optional. You can smoke , if you want to”.

Her emphasis on certain words made it clear she thought she was talking to an idiot.

“So, I assume that in a smoking room it is compulsory to smoke. Do you have people who call in & check the occupants really are smoking and not just sitting around watching TV?”

This remark earned me only an icy stare. Then…

“There are no non-smoking rooms available. Only smoking and optional”. If a non-smoking becomes available tomorrow we’ll let you know”.

“Thank you”.

I went meekly back to my cigar fumed optional smoking room.

About the author: Bruce Beresford