Cigar Aficionado

Avoiding Trouble—Reunion Part 2

The evening was lovely, and the Harvard Class of 1974 reunion attendees were outside on a pleasant patio facing one of the Harvard Athletic buildings across the Charles River in Allston. Cars and buses roared up and down Western Avenue, but it was a nice enough space for a little Wiffle ball and a valiant but ultimately failed attempt at a wet t-shirt contest…and you thought Harvard graduates were all sticks in the mud. Fortunately, wisdom prevailed among the mid-50 somethings gathered there.

I had stopped at Leavitt & Pierce tobacconist in Harvard Square on my way to the picnic and barbecue, and picked up a couple of Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Presidentes for a buddy of mine and myself. It was going to be a perfect moment to share a smoke, after a hearty meal of barbecue, and plenty of wine or beer.

After my friend and I finished off our dinner, we lit up, chatted for a few minutes, and then separated, essentially to two different ends of the crowd. I had spied one of my classmates who hailed from North Florida, and we’ve remained friends through 35 years of post-college life. As I spoke with him and his wife off to one side of the group, I felt someone approaching. “Excuse me, but could you move. I can smell your cigar.”

Now, I never refuse a legitimate request if my cigar is bothering someone, so I said sure, no problem, and moved another 20 feet away into a corner of the patio area, and now, no one was within a good 30 or 40 feet. In fact, Western Avenue was closer to the complainer than my cigar, so I figured that should take care of it, the bus fumes being more noticeable than the smoke from a Don Carlos.

About 15 minutes later, he came up again, and said he could still smell it. Now, I had a choice. I could have gotten on my high horse and pointed out the buses to him, or I could have decided to be polite and move again. I moved again, not wanting to subject my friends to a rant between a cigar lover and an anti-tobacco fanatic, or cause a scene; there was still plenty of room to spare. I also realized at that point that he was not smelling my cigar, but my friend’s, who was downwind from him at the far end of the crowd. I knew no matter how far I moved away, he was still going to smell a cigar, and there would be justice because he had gone from being reasonable to out of line, and he still hadn’t avoided the aroma of the fine cigars.

What struck me more than the intrusion on my serenity was just how far the anti-tobacco fervor has spread. People, even well-educated ones, are convinced that being in the vicinity of tobacco smoke is not just a nuisance, but potentially life-threatening. I understand not liking it, but to be moved to actually take action against people in an outdoor setting really does suggest that it goes beyond just annoyance to this fear for their health. If it were true, I’d understand. But even if you believe there might be some long-term consequences to sitting in smoke-filled room for 20 or 30 years at fairly high smoke concentration levels, it is hard fathom how someone translates that possible threat into an equal threat outdoors. Sad.

I enjoyed my cigar right down to the last nub. No one else asked me to move. Several people commented on the pleasant aroma. I’ll keep taking my cigars to every reunion that I attend in the future. By leaving a day early, I heard I missed out on a post-banquet celebration Saturday night when someone broke out a box of Cubans. Next time, I won’t leave early.

"Proves the old saying: You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him anything. Was your complainer offended earlier by the smell of barbecue smoke? Or is that somehow more acceptable than cigar smoke?" —June 15, 2009 09:37 AM
"Gordon, your story, unfortunately, has become more the norm these days than the exception. I had a mixer at my golf club recently and my assigned partner asked me to get another cart since he didn't want to be subjected to the cigar smoke. Since I was driving, I kindly asked him to do so if he was offended. Keep bringing your cigars - you have rights also." —June 11, 2009 08:37 AM
"It's amazing how easily some people get paranoid over something they know nothing about. But I guess if the press and gov't say it, it must be true (yes, that's sarcasm). My rule of thumb with smoking outdoors is if I am there first and the area is not designated as "non-smoking", I stay put and politely deny the request to move. " —June 11, 2009 10:14 AM
"Gordon,Here in Washington State, we have the worst smoking ban in the nation. (You can't even light up in a smoke shop.) I'm sick and tired of people acting so offended...if they don't like it, they can go inside." —June 11, 2009 15:08 PM