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Smoking in Peace

David Shaw
From the Print Edition:
Premier Issue, Autumn 92

There I was, sitting in my season's seats, high above and behind home plate at Dodgers Stadium, two hot dogs and a Coke already under my belt, game-time still almost 40 minutes away and several empty seats around me on all sides. It seemed the ideal time to smoke a cigar. I leaned back, a smile on my lips and a Davidoff in my hand.

Within nanoseconds, I heard a loud, ugly snarl from what seemed like 20 or 25 feet away, to my left and many rows further back:

"Put that smelly thing out."

I turned in the direction of the voice. It belonged to a woman who looked to be in her mid-30s, although her face was reddened and twisted in a paroxysm of such rage that it was difficult at first to be absolutely certain of anything--her age, her gender, even her species.

"I said put that goddamn thing out. It stinks to high heaven," the leather-lunged charmer repeated when she saw me peering, perplexed, in her direction.

I held the cigar aloft so she could see it clearly.

"I haven't lit it yet," I said, as reasonably as I could. "You can't possibly smell it. Besides, it's a good cigar, and good cigars don't stink."

"I can smell it all right," she shouted back, "and I can smell you, too. You both stink."

I was convinced that she couldn't smell anything--except perhaps her own bile (it was a warm evening), but as much as I usually enjoy the dialectic, I make it a policy never to argue with fanatics on three subjects--religion, politics and cigars. I put my cigar back in its wooden case.

When I told this story to various cigar smoking friends over the next few weeks, they all laughed. But they were laughing at me, not at what I considered to be the most recent proof of the axiom that to be a Dodgers fan, you have to have a screw loose some place. To a man, they all said they'd had virtually identical experiences in various locales--in restaurants, in their offices, at friends' houses, even in their own homes. They'd pull out a cigar, and before they could light it, someone would begin yelping that it smelled foul and that they should extinguish it instantly, under penalty of death. They couldn't believe I was so surprised by the daffy Dodgers' reaction.

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