Walter: Smoking at cafes -- so European, and unwelcome
Every summer brings seasonal fashions that, when you take a closer look, are probably ill-advised: straw fedoras, gladiator sandals and, of particular annoyance, lighting up a cigarette in a sidewalk cafe and pretending you're on the Left Bank in Paris instead of Greenwich Village.
Or maybe the diners smoking in sidewalk cafes on Hudson Street actually are from Paris and don't know smoking at restaurants was banned in New York City 10 years ago.
The giant bars near Washington Square Park let American tourists experience the European style by tolerating smokers at their outdoor seating, and I've noticed an upscale Italian place supplies ashtrays at its tiny outdoor tables. Just like Rome.
I'm a proud New Yorker with no need to fantasize I'm abroad. This makes me an oddball who prefers drinking and dining indoors during the warm weather. I don't like breathing fumes from traffic, I have no need to gawk at colorful characters -- and I don't want to get into arguments with smokers.
But as I stroll around my neighborhood, I must admire the inventiveness of the folks who've created the transcontinental rail hop; they're honoring the local law that restricts smoking in restaurants' outdoor seating, but adding that foreign flavor. It's their version of dual citizenship: When they finish a course, they simply hop over the rail or slip through the fence that encloses the area and light up.
Now these clever rail hoppers are technically no longer in the restaurant. Never mind that these people are hanging over the table, cigarette in hand, chatting up companions. Smoke wafts into places where others are trying to enjoy their burgers or pasta.
To me, common sense would dictate that if you're going to hop the fence to smoke, then step back to the curb as far away from the food as possible. Just don't back into a Citi Bike.
My approach to summer in the city is to avoid dining al fresco. No, I don't feel deprived as I sip my white wine in the cool air and watch those waiting in line for a hot spot to open up. I feel relaxed and at home.