Walking and Smoking

A few random encounters

By Larry Gross
Contributing Writer

Take a cigarette out of your pack, light it, then take a walk in downtown Cincinnati. You might have a few odd encounters and experiences along the way.

I’ve seen this guy for years downtown, mostly on Race Street. He’s older and often well dressed. He’s come to know I’m a smoker and whenever I pass him, without fail, he asks for a cigarette – sometimes two. Lately, when he asks for two, I tell him he’s lucky that he’s getting one.

This woman I pass on Vine Street on occasion could be a prostitute. Smiling, she’ll ask for a smoke and a light. As I light her cigarette, she usually puts her arms down my back, stroking it. If she were prettier, I might want to take this to another level. When I think this, I often wonder what that says about me.

The other day, while walking down Elm Street, a homeless man asked for one of my Camel Lights. In a plastic bag, he had a pair of shoes he wanted to sell me for only five bucks. They weren’t bad looking shoes, but they weren’t my size.

Coming out of the downtown library one day, a man in a wheelchair asked me for a cigarette. After he took it, he had a question: “Do insects sleep?” It was a good question, and I didn’t have an answer. When I got home, I did a Google search. You can do the same.

In front of the CVS Pharmacy on Seventh Street, a young woman walking down the sidewalk, laughing and talking with another young woman, saw me smoking and said, “Hey, dad, give me a cigarette.” “I’m not your dad,” I replied as I kept walking. Her approach to “asking” pissed me off.

Another time, also in front of CVS, a young woman wanted a smoke. After I lit it for her, she looked at me and said, “Oh, I love your hair!” The next day I got a haircut.

There’s a homeless man who’s usually standing on the corner of Sixth and Main. He’s always holding a cardboard sign that’s too faded for me to read. He always has a backpack planted next to him on the sidewalk, with an old paperback book on top. I always stop, give him a cigarette and a buck if I have it and we talk for a little bit about what he’s reading. He’s always anxious to fill me in, sometimes wanting to talk too long about his book. I sometimes want to ask him what went wrong, why is he homeless, but so far I haven’t.

Once I was at Government Square, smoking and pacing, waiting for a bus to take me to Clifton. When the bus pulled up, my cigarette was only about half smoked, but I decided to drop it on the cement at my feet and put it out. A guy runs up to me and says, “Hey, hey! I’ll finish it for you.”

Some weeks back, a guy stopped me on Eighth Street wanting a cigarette. After I gave it to him, he then wanted money to help out with bus fare. I gave him a dollar. He then waned to know if I had a car and could take him across the river to Newport. I told the guy I was busing it. It occurred to me to ask him if he had any household chores he wanted me to do, but I kept my mouth shut.

Standing at the corner of Sixth and Vine, waiting for the light to change so I could cross the street, an older woman was standing with me. I was smoking. She looked at me in disgust and started waving her arms around, signaling that the cigarette smoke was bothering her. Proud of myself, I resisted the temptation to put the cigarette out. As the old bag crossed the street, I thought to myself, “What a bitch.” I was also proud of myself that I didn’t say those words out loud.

See what you’re missing? If you’re not walking and smoking, try it.