Many years ago, my wife and I were walking on the beach in Penang with our then-toddler son.
It’s one of the more popular and clean beach stretches until today. There were a good number of people, many with their families.
Then we saw two girls, probably in their pre-teens, whose Frisbee game degenerated into sand-throwing. One lump of sand narrowly missed us.
This is when my wife decided to speak up and told the two girls nicely that it was dangerous to throw sand as there were others around.
We were dumbfounded when one of the girls replied, “This is a public place. It doesn’t belong to you. It’s our right.”
That riled me up and I almost did one of my Incredible Hulk mutations but then managed to keep my cool.
I told the girls, “Exactly. It’s a public place and that’s the very reason you shouldn’t be throwing sand. My son could have been blinded.”
Then we walked away because I didn’t want any confrontation with someone who didn’t know better. I just hope they realised their folly.
Today, it’s like things have come full circle and I face a similar situation, just that this time I am on the other side.
It’s about the smoking ban at certain public places which will be enforced on Jan 1.
I may be a smoker, but I agree with the ban. Yes, it’s our right to fill our lungs with smoke, cough like a rusty old car that won’t start on a cold morning and smell like an ashtray. But I believe that that right ends when it infringes on the liberties of others. It’s our right to smoke but it’s not our right to cause discomfort to others.
In fact, I should have banned myself many years ago from smoking in such public places. I didn’t. I was blinded as though someone had thrown sand in my eyes. I realise my folly and I am sorry.
Some smokers might take me to task for supporting this ban. I have this to say to them: “One day when you go to the beach and someone throws sand in your eyes, don’t say a word because it’s their right to do so in a public place.”