Before we begin, I just want to remind everyone that the Valentine’s Day Dinner Contest is still accepting nominations. Please nominate your favorite do-gooders for the chance to win V-Day weekend dinner from a personal chef.
I love cigar shops, the camaraderie, conversations, arguments, and certainly the professional connections. I love it all. They exist across all manner of societal lines, and my regular shop is no exception. When I left a really big deal meeting recently (I wish I could tell you about it but I cannot) the cigar shop was a logical choice for a celebratory repast of coffee cake and a smoke.
There’s a Romeo y Juielta Cask Aged Lonsdale in my left hand and a Café Americano in my right. I’m talking politics with Spoon, a nickname that I gave him because of his enjoyment in stirrin’ shit up, when a tall fella’ ambles over from the other side of the store. He’s looking for a particular cigar but in a smaller size. As is so common in cigar shops, this gentleman falls into our conversation or we fall into his.
“Yeah, I know you have the churchills but I need the robusto size… any longer and my wife starts yelling at me” the tall fella says to the tobacconist and in our general direction.
We are men which means our problem response is standard –fix it, buy it, or kill it.
Spoon offers one of his typical conversation grenades with “You just need to let her know who’s in charge!” This is the kill it option.
“Maybe you should consider getting one of those propane heaters for your patio, that way you can smoke on the patio and maybe she won’t complain as much” suggests the tobacconist who happens to be a good friend as well as a shopkeeper. That is the buy it option.
The tall fella laughs a bit at the first suggestion; it was the uncomfortable laugh of someone who hopes what was said was a joke. The rest of us, who regularly smoke with Spoon, laugh too. Our laughs are mostly directed at him because we know, despite the scrapes he gets on his knuckles while walking, that Spoon is a largely harmless anachronism of a different era. We’ve also seen him with his wife and know that she most certainly doesn’t allow him to practice what he preaches.
Maybe because of academic training, or restaurant and sommelier experience, the inclination of the better part of me runs towards asking questions to better understand a problem. (I am more than occasionally prone towards other responses, too.) “Where do you smoke?” I ask the tall fella.
“My wife lets me smoke in the basement… as long as the vents are open, the door is closed, and the smoke-eater is running.”
“Let’s you! She LET’S you smoke in the…” Spoon mocks before I interrupt and keep talking.
“Does she not like the smell of cigar smoke, or is it something else that triggers her anger?” I ask.
“Ya, know, she actually doesn’t mind the smoke – I wouldn’t say that she enjoys it; but it’s not a major problem for her. It’s more like she doesn’t want me spending an hour in the basement a few nights a week after dinner.”
I take a pull from my cigar and say “Even with the understanding that free advice is normally worth exactly what you pay for it, I think your real issue is the disconnect while you’re down there.”
Tall fella nods a bit which I take as a signal to keep talking.
“You need to find a way to make your cigar time a communal time, to involve her. Suppose that you two do the dishes after dinner and then you ask her to play some Scrabble with you, or backgammon, or chess, or maybe read together, or even read to her. The point is to change it from something you do, to just a cigar that you smoke while you two do something together.”
The tall fella was effusive in his thanks; “That’s a really good idea, dude, I mean, that’s really good advice.”
“Yeah, Refugee, you should write a book or something” Spoon teases.
A couple of months have passed since that random exchange and when I ran into the tall fella at the cigar shop yesterday, I didn’t recognize him. He saw me and crossed the shop to say hello.
“Hey, dude, I just wanna thank you for that advice you gave me a while back. You were exactly right; her problem was more me being in the basement by myself. Since then, we’ve played a bunch of board games, and read a coupe of books together and I get to smoke a cigar. But it just goes to show that you need to be careful what you wish for, because I kinda learned I was going down there to escape her.”
“Sorry, my friend, I warned you it might only be worth what you paid for it.”