Antoinette is smoking again.
She works in the next office but the walls here are so porous that the smoke just leaks through. Our building was once Mussolini’s Ministry of African Affairs, a rather grandiose affair since his attempt to emulate other European colonial powers was limited to Abyssinia and Libya. The large offices of the colonial administrators have long since been divided into smaller units, almost all identical. Almost. It’s the details that reveal your rank. Short-term consultants don’t bother investing in decoration; at level 5 you can have carpet on the floor, but there must be a 2 cm gap at the edge by the wall — wall-to-wall carpeting is reserved for directors only.
Smoking in the office has been banned for quite a few years – it still goes on behind locked doors with windows open and air freshener to hand (hey that was me when I was … 15). The law was recently toughened to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, causing surprise and confusion – that it should be applied at all and that it should be applied so quickly, unlike other legal processes. The first fine was issued in Naples, one minute after the official introduction of the law. It was also in crime-ridden Naples, however, that the chair of the traders’ association worried that asking a criminal to put out a cigarette “is no easy matter. I’m not risking getting kneecapped”. Yeah, that could be a demotivating factor.
Antoinette has now finished smoking. I know because the gagging odour of Wild Rose air freshener is now seeping through the walls.