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Bouncer: Live and let smoke at the Tempest 

Wednesday, Mar 31 2010
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Face it: Democracy is overrated. Anyone who has ever been on the losing side of a 49-51 vote knows that. Still, almost everyone in America, on the left or right, has deified the idea of democracy. But anyone who has tried to run a co-op, or have roommates, or even have children knows that majority rule can suck. Still, yes, it is better than any alternatives. But for now, please let me bitch about it. Thanks.

Every time I am in a bar in San Francisco that still allows smoking, I am reminded of how undemocratic this town can be. And it's not because I am annoyed at the smokers — au contraire. I, gentle reader, am annoyed at the antismokers, the people whose nostrils flare at the odor, and kvetch and moan that they have to be around such toxins. It never seems to be enough for them to just decide not to come back, or realize the vast majority of bars don't allow smoking. Nope, they have to blog about it and go on Yelp and generally feel personally affronted.

Case in point, the babe on my right. She had wandered into the Tempest with a crew of her workmates, or so it seemed. It's a place that allows smoking because it was grandfathered in. Way across the room, there sat a couple at a table, and the man was smoking. The babe kept turning around, craning her neck, appalled.

Now, yes, it is true that once word gets out that a place allows smoking, the puffers invariably take it over. I can see that being annoying for someone ... someone who lives in a small town with only one bar. But there are hundreds of choices in S.F. If you don't like it, shove off. It's a free country.

Not that the Tempest isn't one of a kind. It is burrowed in an alley behind the Chronicle building, making for a great afterwork spot for SOMA people. It is big, with billiards; a long, old-fashioned bar; and a nice brick wall on one side that lends it a New York City loft kind of feel. The bartenders are superfriendly, especially the dude who loves all things Kansas. And if you park yourself next to some disgruntled journalists, of which there are usually many, you can get a real earful.

But on this night, I wasn't in the mood to eavesdrop. No, I was seeing people for who they really are, or at least I liked to think so. I was fresh off the Internet on my phone, then watching this lady have a self-important meltdown about the smoker, and seething. Here's why:

For those of us in the Facebook community, were any of you as shocked as I was at the rancor, vitriol, passion, and general malaise after the health care bill was passed? Most of us were rejoicing in the forum, but people like some I went to junior high with were incensed at the legislation. Others chimed in with different posts about hyperbolic doomsday scenarios of their taxes going up 15 percent, the advent of socialism, and having to foot the bill for welfare queens. There were people, of course, whose opinions didn't surprise me, but then there were others I'd had no idea were right-wing. I felt so deeply for this legislation on a human level that anyone who disagreed with it seemed somehow subhuman.

Though I didn't do it, I do know a few people who deleted Facebook "friends" as a result. I was tempted to delete some, too. If I didn't like what they had to say, they were gonna go. All this led to several discussions about what was "appropriate" content on the site, with a few people calling a moratorium on any political discussion. And then there was the dust-up a few weeks ago about the guy who wanted to make a fan page for "hating fags." Everyone got up in arms and wanted him deleted, and I found out that Facebook has rules against hate speech and can get rid of users who break the rule.

Facebook, it would seem, is the New World, and we are pilgrims landing on its shores. We are attempting to cobble together some sort of constitution that lays out what rules we will all follow, so as to better get along and keep things fair for everyone. As a result, people who are otherwise liberal, open-minded, and, yes, democratic are throwing around opinions about just how much stuff is inappropriate on the site, what shouldn't be said or discussed, and which people it is not okay to allow on board. In short, they are acting like fascists.

For the record: I do not agree with Facebook removing people who use hate speech. Also, I do not agree with anyone who says we should or should not use Facebook for any set thing. I have to be libertarian on this one, people: If our Facebook profiles are an extension of who we are as individuals, then how in the hell do we have the right to curtail what anyone says on them?

Harumph.

So there she sat, the self-righteous antismoker babe, across from me. She was obviously debating what she should do. Eventually, I think she realized that the entire bar would not bend to her will; that her lone voice of protest would not make the Tempest repeal its liberal smoking policy. She pulled her felt hat further down on her head, said her goodbyes, and left. And I felt a feeling of victory. Of power. Of a cleansing. I suppose if I had actually deleted anyone on Facebook, which I ended up not doing, it would feel the same. I have decided that I will never delete anyone I don't agree with.

And I have decided that the annoying babe at the Tempest was entitled to be a dipshit. Because you know what? All of this stuff got me thinking, got my blood racing, got me motivated. If we never disagreed, or pissed each other off, or stepped on toes, life would be even duller than it already is.

"Barkeep, another one!" I said, adding a, "Please?" once I realized how demanding I sounded. One must be democratic about these things.

Become a fan of "Katy St. Clair's Bouncer Column" on Facebook! Interact with the author, offer feedback, and be subjected to whatever crappy YouTube vid she finds entertaining this week.

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Katy St. Clair

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