I once worked with a tech that the only time he was not smoking was when he was test-driving a customer’s vehicle. He smoked unfiltered Pall Malls, which had a distinctive smell. He was one of the best techs I ever worked with — he had talent and “the touch.”
One morning, I watched him change the oil on a car without ever putting down his cigarette or oversized coffee cup. Just about any fool can attempt this, but they usually wind up with a coffee mug full of ashes or get smoke in their eyes. He could do it with the grace and agility of a ballroom dancer. Smoker or non-smoker, anybody would have found his dance with his coffee, Pall Mall and wrench very impressive.
Just about everybody in that shop smoked, including the owner. One week we received a vehicle that needed a new transmission. It was a common vehicle with an uncommon transmission. Once the transmission was pulled, it required a long wait to get it back from the rebuilder.
When I parked the car on the lift, I left the driver’s side window down. It was a bad habit of mine because I was always afraid of locking the keys in the car after a recent incident. The car was in the air for a week at the shop, slowly absorbing the fumes of the four smokers below. When the customer came to pick up the car, he came rushing back in complaining that we had turned his car into an ashtray. The shop owner went out to the car and he could not smell a thing because he was a smoker. But, we sent the car out for detailing and a $75 “ionization” process that neutralized odors — even the strongest smell of wet dog.
The smoking policy changed, but it was never really enforced. The attitude was that if we could not smell it, it did not exist. As a gag, my Pall Mall smoking friend strapped a tailpipe exhaust hose to his neck to suck out his fumes as he worked on a convertible. Our brains can turn down the volume of certain smells if the person is exposed to them on a constant basis, while still being able to smell other smells they encounter. It is why sewage treatment plant workers can go to work every day and not gag the second they walk in the door. The same is true for smokers. Smokers expose themselves to the smell of smoke every day to the point that they think their smoke does not stink — like the shop owner in the story.
When I was a smoker, I tried to be as considerate to non-smokers as much as possible. But, I never realized how bad it smelled. Especially, when I came back from a smoke break or tried to get a smoke in before a stressful meeting. It was not until I quit smoking for six months that I realized how bad it smelled.
If you are a technician who is a smoker trying to quit, I applaud you. Don’t quit quitting. If you are a smoker, I support your right to smoke. Just don’t do it in the shop.