Friday, January 16, 2009

Smoke signals

Over the years I’ve noticed that the smoking culture of a company tells you all you need to know about it. So when you go somewhere for a job interview, I suggest you spend a few minutes in the smoking area even if you ain’t into the habit.

There’s this place I know of that’s very warm and caring, but it’s very hierarchy-led. And so is their smoking zone. The moment a senior management guy walks in, he automatically looks around for someone of the same level and stands there. If the senior is alone and a junior joins, the biggie slowly starts drifting away till he’s at a safe distance. Sometimes a kid would come out and go back seeing a senior. Better wait till a friend joins. In fact, people have ‘smoking friends’ just like train friends. You’ll always see a certain group of people smoke together.

Even the ‘asking for a light’ thing was a great revelation. Picture this. A middle management guy is standing and a same level guy comes to ask for a light. You’ll see the lighter/matchbox exchange hands. But if this same mid-level guy sees a senior even from afar, he’ll go all the way and hold the lighter for the biggie to light up. The kids don’t even ask for a light (matches come at a cost, you see). They simply use the other’s cigarette to light up.

But hierarchy apart, it’s a caring organisation. So the smoking time is used to chill, crack jokes, cry on shoulders. Advice is shared over a smoke. Sometimes work is discussed ‘off the record’. Sometimes two people smoke in absolute silence but you can see there’s a bond, a sense of togetherness in it.

Also, some good soul brings a lighter and keep it for the janta to use. People thus take turns.

There is this other place I know of which is very cold and water-tight. People keep to their own groups and hide what they’re doing from others. The place strictly works on the sucking-up- to-boss attitude. Even their smoking zone is like that.

People won’t even enter the smoking zone without cronies. It’s like they’re too insecure to even stand and smoke alone. Even the smoking zone is used to preen and look around if there’s somebody you can impress. People are full of the desperate need to constantly look cool.

Gadgets come out over a smoke. It’s cool to smoke with the iphone in your hand, or perhaps, a fancy ipod. The smoking area is used to talk about the latest expensive acquisitions, and to drop names.

I also once saw this strange phenomenon here. Once this uncool looking kid came and asked this guy if he had a cigarette. He didn’t. But as soon as this cool dude came and asked for one, a whole pack miraculously appeared from the said guy’s pocket.

Then again, there’s this organisation I know of that’s absolutely fabulous. I won’t even describe it. I’ll straight go to their smoking zone. Everybody sits with everybody else. You can’t make out the levels and designations in the smoking zone for sure. Cigarettes are hard to get in that area. So people just ask around for cigarettes. And people give them freely. You hear the question ‘Ek ciggie milega?’ answered with, “Ek nahin do milega’.

I’ve seen people part with their last cigarette without even thinking about it. Which, even non-smokers know, is the height of altruism.

And I’ll tell you the best part about this place. Somebody has kept an ashtray in the smoking zone. Not really so much out of civic sense. But so that the housekeeping guy doesn’t have too much trouble cleaning the place. Cool na?

Disclaimer: If you’re stupid enough to think this post encourages smoking, I have nothing to say to you.

No comments: