Thursday, January 17, 2008

The power of nicotine?

True story.

Traffic crawled during Dubuque's version of "rush hour" this morning. We were at the peak of a healthy snowstorm. No, it was no blizzard. No arctic blasts. But it wasn't the most pleasant experience to be outside just then, either.

I had stopped at my favorite coffee shop, Java Dreams, which consists of a walk-up window (no indoor seating). As I was about to get into my car, which was parked next to the sidewalk, a pedestrian approached. The man -- I'd say he was in his 30s -- appeared a bit underdressed for the conditions, but not dangerously so. At least he wore a knit cap. He was smoking a cigarette.

"Excuse me, sir," he said to me. "Are you going downtown?"

"Sure am."

"Could I catch a ride?"

I'm not much on giving rides to strangers, but given the daylight hour and weather conditions, it was an easy call.

"Sure -- if you'll toss the cigarette."

I don't smoke, and I didn't want smoke in my car.

His response? "That's OK," he said, and kept on trudging down the sidewalk.

It didn't seem to be an unreasonable expectation. But perhaps his need for nicotine at that moment was greater than his need to receive a mile-plus ride and get out of the snow for a while.

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