Friday, August 2, 2013

No Smoking

A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1990; rpt. 2002), pp. 5-6 (on Albert Lewis):
He was a master of the anecdote, a fund of improbable stories, many of which epitomized the tragicomedy of what it meant to be Irish. One of the more bizarre 'wheezes' (as he habitually termed these stories and observations) concerned an occasion when he was traveling in an old-fashioned train of the kind which had no corridor, so that the passengers were imprisoned in their compartments for as long as the train was moving. He was not alone in the compartment. He found himself opposite one other character, a respectable-looking farmer in a tweed suit whose agitated manner was to be explained by the demands of nature. When the train had rattled on for a further few miles, and showed no signs of stopping at a station where a lavatory might have been available, the gentleman pulled down his trousers, squatted on the floor of the railway carriage and defecated. When this operation was complete, and the gentleman, fully clothed, was once more seated opposite Albert Lewis, the smell in the compartment was so powerful as to be almost nauseating. To vary, if not to drown the odour, Albert Lewis got a pipe from his pocket and began to light it. But at that point the stranger opposite, who had not spoken one word during the entire journey, leaned forward and censoriously tapped a sign on the window which read NO SMOKING.

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