Smoke ’em if ya got ’em: inside Whatcom’s smoke shack

by Mary Lyle

Horizon Reporter

The smoking shelters at Whatcom Community College are constantly crowded hang out spots.  Whether you’re quickly passing by, holding your breath to avoid the cloud of cigarette smoke, or are habitually among the packed group of people huddled inside the glass hut, chances are you are already pretty familiar with at least one shelter.

How could you not be?

It’s situated directly in the path of two of the most trafficked doors of Whatcom that connect the Student Syre Center and Laidlaw building.

“Smoking is a social interest,” says Scott Hutchinson, an everyday regular of the smoking shelter.

“There’s no awkward tension when you strike up a conversation with someone like there is everywhere else on campus,” Hutchinson said as he smoked a cigarette among his smoking-shelter friends.  He said the shelter provided a “more interesting, and wider variety of people to talk with”.  He remembered walking up to the shelter when he first came to the college and finding everyone to be friendly.  That’s how he met his first acquaintances at school, he said.

Adam Gaines, a friend of Hutchinson’s, is another regular to the smoking shelter.  Gaines, whom a Whatcom student might recognize as the one who puffs on a tobacco pipe at the shack rather than a typical cigarette, said that many of the smoking shelter regulars have established nicknames.  “Choonauck is my given nickname,” says Gaines. “Choonauck with three apostrophes at the end.”

Farron Dowdy is another Whatcom student who visits the shelter between every class.  She said she dislikes that the smoking shelter “smells like a five year old cig,” and can’t stand the “loud annoying people” that hang around.

“Since I go pretty much at the same time every day, I see a lot of the same people,” Dowdy said.  “If I have the same class with them I will sit with them.”

“I’ve seen people smoke a hookah in there and I’ve seen people pass out and puke in them,” says Dowdy.  Students puking and smoking hookah isn’t an everyday occurrence in the shack, but you can catch some pretty out of the ordinary situations, she adds.

Not everyone who hangs out at the smoking shelter smokes.  Students are seen playing guitar, card games, listening to music, and just hanging around for good conversation.

“We get dirty looks from people,” says Hutchinson.  “Smoking can bring a stigma for non smokers.”

Some students have heard rumors that Whatcom could turn into a “non-smoking campus.”  Brian Keeley, Whatcom’s facilities director, says “at this point in time there is not a ‘smoke free’ policy for Whatcom in the works.”  An idea to survey students on their opinions of smoking on campus has been brought up, but there is no current plan on the matter, he added.

Keeley was not working at Whatcom when the shelter was placed, but the site was chosen because it was “convenient for students, but still keeps them away from all of the students who don’t smoke.”  It exceeds the law that people cannot smoke within 25 feet from a doorway, but is “still kind of an inconvenient place for non-smokers to pass,” he said.

Nick Santini, a Whatcom student who uses the smoking shelter, thinks the shelter needs to be bigger and around the Student Syre Center so it isn’t directly in the middle of campus.  “I don’t want to be blowing smoke into people’s faces that walk by,” says Santini.  “And you don’t really want to be right next to someone so close smoking a cigarette either.”

Santini also says that the shelter “definitely has some engineering problems, and could use some vents.”  When it rains and everyone is huddled into the shelter smoking cigarettes, it gets “musty and too smokey.”

Scott Hutchinson also noted that non-smokers in the shelter get second-hand smoke.   “I will offer them a cigarette and they will say ‘I don’t smoke,” he said.  “But really they are smoking because of how thick the smoke can get.”

2 thoughts on “Smoke ’em if ya got ’em: inside Whatcom’s smoke shack

  1. I am Adam Gaines(the one mentioned in the article) When I was told by the reporter that there was to be an article about the smoking shack, I was looking forward to reading it. Though, now that I have read this piece, I feel rather let down.

    First off, the one fact that bothers and offends me the most… The photo that appeared with the article. At it time of taking I was present and with a friend of mine. you can see us both in the photo. I find this problematic since my friend SPECIFICALLY informed your reporter and photographer that he did not want his picture used for this article. They informed him that was perfectly fine and that they would not use those photos.

    My next point is to how the article was displayed in the paper itself. I know it is customary for news papers to take certain quotes, bold them, and places them around the article. the problem here is that the two quotes that were chosen paint the smoking shack in a completely negative light. So people who are glancing over the paper (lets be honest, most people don’t read articles, just the headline and the tiny quotes) will view the smoking shelter in this bias light.

    Also I question the interviewing methods of your reporter. If you are trying to find out about a hang out spot you should endeavor to interview the people who actually hang out there. I spend a great amount of time inside that tiny plexi-glass box, and the only reason I (as well as Scott Hutchinson) was interviewed was because we chose to approach the suspicious looking people taking pictures of us. All other people that were mentioned in the article I have never heard of. And after an extensive discussion with the other ‘usual’ people of the smoking shack, apparently, no one else has heard about them. Whoever these people were, they are not people who hang out there as the article either outright claims or implies.

    I also would like to challenge the validity of this “Farron Dowdys” claim that she has witnessed people puke and pass out in them. the only time I have witnessed someone “puke” there is when a friend was struck with food poisoning. And the nearest thing to “passing out” has been people taking a nap. Also I would like to Call out this Farron Dowdy and ask here: “If you seem to have nothing nice to say about the shack, why do you (claim) to visit between every class?”

    That being said I do appreciate and enjoy most of the article. And I do apologize for this rant, I simply felt certain injustices were being committed, and I should say something.

    Adam “Choorauck” Gaines (and yes that Choorauck… with an R!”

  2. While reading through the article in the Horizon, I was speechless. At first, I couldn’t believe that they had even written an article on the shack, but also written one that was so lacking in information, and the information they did have was very biast sounding. Imagine what people thought after reading this article! The horror of it all. I almost could understand what it is like to be a resteraunt that got a bad review. Maybe I am the one being biast, though. I feel as though the article only bothered me this much because The Shack has been nothing but a place of constant joy for me in the short quarters I have spent at Whatcom. I have never met a more interesting group of individuals, who I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and get to know. I feel as though this article was an attack on a place that I, personally, could call a home away from home.

    I’ll be the first to say, I feel no sympathy for Farron Dowdy, whom does not seem to notice that she can smoke somewhere else is she truely dislikes the shack. I mean, if the people are “loud and annoying” and she doesn’t like the smell, then what is she even doing there? Besides that, she claimes to see people puking and passing out, but I’ve asked, and the only time anyone has puked was an incident involving illness. I’ve seen people take naps and such, but nothing as dramatic as passing out. Also, you’d think we would know who she is. Farron claimes to be a shack regular, but you’d think, being there as much as some of us are, we might have a clue who this woman is. Alsom to the the passer byers who suffer and have to hold their breathes while walking by, if you really feel as though the smoke is a little much, you can walk a little further away. Its not hard to curve around the shack and avoid the smoke if its really something that bothers you.

    I liked the quotes from Choorauk!!! and Scott, and though the picture on the front shouldn’t ave been printed because of certian privacy issues, the article wasn’t a terrible read. Just next time, it would be a good idea to get more involved with what your writing about. Next time your interested in a group of people, you should actually talk to them instead of hiding in bushes taking pictures and interviewing imaginary regulars.

    I really don’t even know what I’ve written, its probably full of bad grammar, nonsense sentances and whatnot.
    sincerely, Delaney “danimals” Ruffcorn

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