It happened to me today for the first time in recent memory: I lost my cool. Though it was only for a few seconds, I was rude to an older gentleman today, and it's bothering me.

Let me set this up for you: I had just gotten out of the Lafayette airport and took a seat on the bench farthest to the left as you exit the airport. I was checking social media while waiting for a ride when someone sat down next to me to, I assume, await their ride. Soon, I detected the strong odor of a cigarette. Knowing that the smoking section was across the street, I spoke up before I looked up.

I began with "I'm sorry, but the smoking section is over there. You are smoking in a non-smoking area. Do you see the sign there; it says "Designated Smoking Area?”

As these words were flowing from my mouth (and they were flowing rather quickly) I realized that I was speaking to a frail older gentleman with a man about my age standing next to him. Also, there was a walker parked next to the older gentleman.

The older man began to stand to make his way across the street when I thought "wait a minute, John. You can easily remove yourself from the smoke and save this man from having to relocate".

I got up, apologized, and then said "sir, don't worry about moving. I can easily move right over there. You go ahead and finish your cigarette. My apologies, I can easily move over to the next bench" or something along those lines.

This whole time (which was about 20 seconds, I would guess) the other gentleman didn't say a word to me, though he was looking at me. He could have probably ripped me up for being rude to the older gentleman. He could have punched me in the face. He could have called me a jerk. He didn't. He didn't do any of those things and, for that, I am grateful.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am embarrassed that I lost my cool. It's not like me. I wasn't in a bad mood (I was just getting back from a great weekend with Shannon), I had good flights from Nashville, and the weather was awesome. I just spoke without thinking.

I posted a shorter version of this story to Facebook earlier, and people were supporting me (he shouldn't have been smoking in the non-smoking area, etc), but I truly am embarrassed, and hope that the gentleman realized that my apology was sincere.

He looked like a businessman. He may be a veteran. He may have spent nights ducked down in a foxhole very far away from home getting shot at. He might be a doctor that brought hundreds, if not thousands of babies into this world. He may be an engineer who designed some of the products used to make our lives easier. I didn't consider these things before I spoke; I just smelled smoke and then saddled up on my high horse.

My point is this: he is human, and I should have made more of an effort to treat him that way.

The gentleman probably didn't realize that the area was non-smoking. Maybe he figured that, since we were outside, it was okay.

What would you have done in this instance? Would you have just moved and not said anything? Does it make a difference that he is an elderly gentleman? At what age do people start getting a "pass"?

Anyway, I hope that my apology was enough, and that my words didn't ruin their day.

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