Regardless of where you stand on the removal of monuments to Confederate slavery and racism, one thing is clear: the decades-long struggle of non-smokers everywhere goes entirely forgotten, with nary a statue.*
In the 1970s the restaurants my family frequented offered non-smokers three tables at best. We might wait half an hour just to get seated. The hostess at Abdow’s Big Boy would look at us with disdain as we tarried in her crowded lobby awaiting our turn. Guests who arrived after us stuck their noses in the air and marched on ahead of us to fill their bellies with dinner and their lungs with smoke.
And when finally we were called to a booth, we’d be led with contempt to the furthest corner of the restaurant, hard up beside the restrooms. The waiter, annoyed at having to bring our food so far from the kitchen, was seldom to be seen again and you can forget about her bringing the bottle of ketchup, please.
Had she spit in our hamburgers loaded high on the tray? Sneeze in the unsalted fries?
Added to the insult of feeling like outcasts marked by no-smoking signs, we endured second hand smoke all around us. It ruined the taste of our food and followed us home in a thick stench on our clothes.
But as the decades progressed, common sense and science conspired to defeat Big Tobacco. No-smoking sections expanded to the point where they were no longer necessary. Restaurants dedicated themselves entirely to clean air.
And the no-smoking signs disappeared.
Now, inspired by the horrific events in Charlottesville, I propose we bring them back. I propose we hang them re-positioned to distinguish those who favor torch-bearing racism from those who do not. Let the diners who welcome American values like diversity and free speech eat in peace far from those who abuse their First Amendment right by fouling the air with hate speech and racism.
Let the racists tell the world who they are. Let them eat in shamefaced chagrin near the men’s room and the stinking toilet cakes. Let them hope the servers and cooks don’t spit in their food.
Let racism come to an end. Turn it on its side.
*forgive me. i do not make light of the real struggle. parody often requires the absurd