Help me make friends while avoiding long-term suicide.
June 28, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

All the cool people at work smoke. What's a perfect excuse to go join them outside and chat when I don't personally want to suck cancer into my lungs?

I don't smoke and I don't plan to start, but the most interesting people at work are smokers. I'd try to time my coffee/hot chocolate breaks with their smoke breaks, but a) the coffee machine is in the opposite part of the building, and b)it's not on a schedule but rather on a "hey, work right now is slow, let's go for a smoke" basis.
I work in a plant, which is an open space, so it's pretty obvious when they are heading out. I'm starting to be pretty good friends with some of these people, but I still feel kind of awkward standing around twiddling my thumbs.
posted by snoogles to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I sometimes go and chat with my friends at work who smoke. I just tell them I'm coming out for a chat. Although I guess "getting something from your car" may work. Or "Making a personal cellphone call".
posted by gergtreble at 6:03 PM on June 28, 2007

What gergtreble said, is what I've done before.

I just simply tell them that I want (deserve) a break too, and I'd like to come outside and hang out/chat with them. Perhaps standing slightly further away to avoid the smoke.. but none the less being polite and having good conversation.
posted by jmnugent at 6:04 PM on June 28, 2007

smoking is a social act, just walk out, start talking and stand upwind
posted by kanemano at 6:06 PM on June 28, 2007

Similar things happened where I worked. I just went and hung out.

Helps if you have something to talk about. Since you know them well enough you could easily grab one of them when you see them going on break: "Hey Bob! Did you see that one thing the other day?" Continue the conversation as you go.

After the first time (if all goes well) you should just be able to show up.

Or remind someone that "next time you take a smoke break, come and get me, I want to ask you about _____"

posted by Ookseer at 6:07 PM on June 28, 2007

Yeah, just go. Say, "Can I join you?" and then go. Don't feel bad if they don't come by your desk and specifically invite you, though. Smokers invite other smokers to smoke. As long as you're cool, too, and don't give them any crap about smoking, they won't mind you being there at all. They may also offer you smokes -- politely decline with a "no thanks, just takin' a break."
posted by amanda at 6:08 PM on June 28, 2007

Ahhh, the "fresh-air break"... good times, good times... Just follow them out, many people don't pay attention to whom is smoking or not. As long as you aren't staring at them like a weirdo, you'll be fine.
posted by blackkar at 6:09 PM on June 28, 2007

I suppose if you are really desperate not to stand out you could get one of those nicotine inhalers, take all the insides out and be "trying to quit".
posted by gergtreble at 6:10 PM on June 28, 2007

The last time I worked in an office (about 2 years ago), I had a group of co-workers that I'd bring with me when I smoked cause, much like you said, we had good conversations and it was a nice breather away from the office. Neither of them were smokers, but I was.

You don't need an excuse/reason to joing them - I imagine you can just say "you guys mind if I join you?" and then have a normal conversation. Unless these guys are dicks, I don't see why they'd have a problem with that, and they probably won't even notice the thumb-twiddling :)
posted by revmitcz at 6:17 PM on June 28, 2007

at my line chef job, i always went outside with the smokers and when someone once asked me why, i told them (quite honestly) that i just needed the break from work sometimes. everyone seemed to accept this pretty quickly.
posted by mosessis at 6:21 PM on June 28, 2007

When I worked as a server/bartender for a few years, I always got a cup of soda and joined them out back. My current job doesn't have any smokers, but if I worked at an office that did, I'd go out back with my Nalgene bottle. I figured if smokers get extra breaks, I should too.
posted by jmd82 at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2007

Best answer: Sometimes I say I'm due for some photosynthesis...
posted by barometer at 6:57 PM on June 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

Buy a yo-yo?
posted by goethean at 6:58 PM on June 28, 2007

gee, caddis, that was useful. guess you don't smoke. that's alright, i think you're cool anyway.

nthing the others about just going out with them--but don't be like caddis. they know the risks of smoking, but they do it anyway. don't try to talk them out of it when you go. and don't take up smoking just because you want to be with them.
posted by lester at 7:18 PM on June 28, 2007

ex-smoker here... if you notice two people going out, don't invite yourself as they may have some private gossip to share with each other. But 3 or more- I say just go. Head down there (or where ever the smoking happens) and say I think I'll join you. Ignore the smoking and chat as though you were any where else. Smokers tend to stick together, but if you show (through time) you're cool and are there to socialize, no one will care if you smoke or not. You will just be someone who comes for the entertainment. If you are concerned about the thumbs- bring a water bottle or a cup of coffee/tea.
posted by MayNicholas at 7:32 PM on June 28, 2007

Best answer: Bring a bottle of water. A break is a break.
posted by RMD at 7:51 PM on June 28, 2007

I don't know how serious you are about your health, but of course being around second hand smoke as in, being around a bunch of people who are smoking, is terrible for you. A lot of people take up smoking just to get into these social situations, but it is completely unnecessary: whats wrong with liking to get outside once in a while. Don't mention anything about fresh air because that air aint fresh.
posted by dino terror at 7:58 PM on June 28, 2007

I smoked a pipe for a while in college. Still do occasionally. It allowed me to hang out with the smokers while fulfilling my need for something fiddley to do. Smelled good too, and won't kill you any faster than driving a car will. Not to mention, cheap.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:55 PM on June 28, 2007

Just go on out with them on occasion. No need to start smoking or playing around w/ "oh i'm getting coffee" routine. I used to go outside all the time with a buddy when he would go smoke. I smoke cigars, so there was never enough time for me to light one of those suckers up; but I would just hang out and talk. No need to lie about it.
posted by uncballzer at 9:04 PM on June 28, 2007

(Smoker) - I was going to suggest "get a yoyo" too! But I do cherish my little "breaks" sometimes as a bit of me time, so sticking to the three's a crowd suggestion made by MayNicholas above is a good idea.
posted by Catch at 9:59 PM on June 28, 2007

I just go out with them and talk. No one ever seems to make a big deal out of it.

Though, I haven't been in a workplace with smokers in... a long time, now. Weird.
posted by blacklite at 11:24 PM on June 28, 2007

At my old job, even if no one else was smoking at the time (although normally when I had someone to talk to), I would take "smoke breaks" with about the same regularity as someone who actually smoked. A quick "no, I don't smoke. But I could use a break anway. Ya mind?" for the first time, and then a "yeah, I could use a break too" for all subsequent forays seemed to work just fine.

I continued to call them "Smoke Breaks," and even pulled out a lighter when I was walking out. This, however, was entirely because my smokeless manager was kind of a dick, and wouldn't have let me take the breaks otherwise. If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't have bothered with the charade. As RMD put it, a break's a break.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:52 PM on June 28, 2007

say you are trying to quit, but need a whiff of nicotine....
posted by yugolplex at 11:58 PM on June 28, 2007

I used to hang out with the smokers in my previous job, too. When they went for their smoke break, I generally got a can of coke from the machine and called it my ¬ęcaffeine break¬Ľ. Not once was I the target of any weird stares - no more than usual, anyway.
posted by doctorpiorno at 2:12 AM on June 29, 2007

At my new job it started as an unfortunate little seemingly snotty group of smokers, but now someone just calls out, "who's up for a smoke and/or not smoke break!" and everyone trots outside for what we call our "mini conferences".
posted by stormygrey at 6:21 AM on June 29, 2007

3rding MayNicholas' point. Sometimes smokers who want to have a private conversation will use a cigarette as a pretext for doing so. That shouldn't stop you, if you're aware of the possibility you'll notice when that is the case.

You don't need to have something to say, just go. If you want a line, "just taking a break".
posted by BigSky at 7:58 AM on June 29, 2007

Best answer: I smoked for ten years (and enjoyed it) until I gave it up last year because it was turning into a hassle. What I enjoyed most about it was the cigarette break, in which you could excuse yourself from the routine for a little while and relax. With other smokers.

As ridiculous as this might sound, "having a smoke" with anyone is an instant bonding experience. Smokers have a bit of unspoken solidarity with one another. Even more so lately, what with the heavy taboo associated with it. And beyond all that, there is at least an underlying reason they are outside: they want to smoke.

With all this in mind, it's no surprise that you feel awkward standing there twiddling your thumbs. You're not out there for any reason other than just to "hang out". So I guess the question that needs to be asked is whether or not you hang out with these people in any other context besides the smoke break. If so, then by all means, just hang out with them. If not, though, I think I would eventually start getting creeped out by someone who was just "there" every time I stepped outside for a quick smoke. Especially if they brought a yo-yo. You need to get to know these people in other contexts.
posted by tjvis at 8:33 AM on June 29, 2007

be the lollipop guy/girl. sugar free of course. I think it would be kind of cool & sexy.
posted by monicaabc at 11:24 AM on July 3, 2007

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