Simple pleasures

When the Smoke Free Illinois Act went into effect in 2008, it seemed as if bars would take the biggest hit. After all, any smoker will tell you that a cigarette is most necessary during or shortly after imbibing an alcoholic beverage. And anyone with a steady drinking and smoking habit was irritated. The smoking ban was probably the right idea—but while I don’t smoke or have much of a desire to smell like cigarettes any longer, there is one thing I miss, and that’s smoking in coffee shops.

In Europe, Central America, and the Middle East (the only places outside of the U.S. that I’ve traveled, not counting Canada), one thing you notice is the number of coffee shops full of young people sitting around tables and chatting, smoking cigarettes, and drinking coffee or eating small sandwiches. The last time I traveled out of the country—to Israel, 15 months ago—an American expat friend of mine told me that one thing she loved about her new home was the act of socializing at coffee shops over cigarettes. It reminded me that this used to be one of the best parts of living in Chicago, a scene that in hindsight was its own little subculture, the loss of which is palpable today.