Sunday, September 7, 2014

You Stay Classy, Cigar Smokers*

One of my favorite things about cigar smokers (besides all the other things, which are also favorites) is that they exude class and dignity.

A quiet serenity surrounds a person when they smoke a cigar. You know this. There's the contemplative ritual of cutting, toasting, lighting, taking the inaugural puffs and the first delicious pull. There's the sweetness of silent camaraderie. 

Sure, there can be raucous laughter and sexual innuendo that would make the most experienced line cook blush. But underlying it all is the respect for the cigar, the respect for the fellow smokers, and respect for the way of life. 

Until there isn't. 

Some of my cigar-smoking friends are the smartest people I know. They are doctors (Hi Doc!), car salesmen (Hi Eric!), and Certified Executive Chefs, of which there are only 2000 in the entire country (Hi Valentino!).

They are professional football players (Hi Jeremy!), prison guards (Hi Sergio!), and bankers (Hi Brian!). 

Never have any of these--or the multitudes of others--tried to impress me with how smart they are. Could I learn something from each and every one of them? Absolutely. And I do, through clever conversation, verbal volleyball, and joke jousting. Give-and-take. Sharing. Maintaining balance. 

Yesterday, I ran into someone at an event who broke all the rules. Before we'd even settled in, a woman we've never met before interjected herself into a conversation. That's fine. Who hasn't? That's a great way to meet new people. We're a friendly bunch, the two caballeros, three amigos, and me. (I'm fancying myself as Maid Marian in this rowdy band of thieves** and lotharios.***)

In her grating voice, this woman screeched "I know what each of you is smoking." She then identified each man's sticks (heh). Impressive? Meh. All the bands were pretty visible and easily identifiable, which of course is a marketer's dream. 

She glommed onto a couple members of the band of merry men and talked. And talked. And talked, spewing facts and a litany of who she has been photographed with.**** 

I tapped out early on. I am not a fan of "Look at everything I know" litanies.  No sharing. Not even "Hi, my name is..."  Just "Let me prove to you that I know things."

Throughout the day, she'd start up again; after all, plenty of audience members present! And then she'd circle back to us. 

As I was who-know-whatting, I heard her say, "No, no, no. Don't use that cutter. I have the perfect cutter." She then pranced around our table waving a guillotine cutter and proceeded to show Valentino how to cut a Nica Rustica to "the perfect amount" with "the perfect cutter." 

Sweetie, he's been cutting cigars longer than you've been alive. He has an expensive Xicar cutter (monogrammed, if you must know). He's humoring you, but really, he's also inching away from you--politely, but still inching. 

One of the main topics I beg my students to learn is audience. Before you write, know who you're writing for. Before you speak, understand who you're speaking with. Your words, tone, and approach must be appropriate for your audience. 

Cigar smokers come from all walks of life, and we can never completely understand from whence they've come. Because it doesn't really matter. There will always be glad-handing, the first step in accepting another person into your own personal brotherhood or sisterhood. Once you've shared cigar smoke with someone, an expectation of equivalency is established.

So was that woman memorable? Absolutely, and not in a good way. As Cabellero #2 said after he, too, inched away, "Yeah, she knows her stuff...but she won't shut up." And by the way, she was playing a losing game of one-upsmanship with the Grand Master. Imagine how much she could have learned by actually having a grown-up conversation with him.

Metaphor alert: Please don't go flashing your new $200 Fossil watch, telling everyone how it magically tells time. The person you're speaking at may just happen to have a Rolex under his shirt sleeve. He doesn't have to flash it to know how long until the cigar lounge closes. He will quietly, classily, check to see if he has time for that new 50th Anniversary PadrĂ³n. 
Here's what it all comes down to: Class, dignity, and maturity together are the filler, binder, and wrapper of cigar smokers. Missing one leaves you unfinished. Obviously, anyone can smoke a cigar, but not everyone is a true cigar smoker, a Brother or Sister of the Leaf.



***Double metaphorical--they're all happily married. Except Valentino of course. Whew!

****FYI: Standing next to person while someone takes your picture is not really noteworthy, in my opinion. Chatting with them and walking away with a better understanding of who they are as a person is. Making them laugh is. Giving them something to think about is. Making them feel better about themselves is.  You get the gist.

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