My father was a constant cigar smoker, and I hated to be in a closed room or car while he lit up another stinky cigar. My mother and I tolerated the habit once as we drove from Washington State to North Carolina, along with our aging cocker spaniel, Inky. I promised myself never to marry a cigar smoker when I grew up.
After his death, I managed to avoid most cigar smoke simply by moving to another room, or move far away from such smokers if I happened to be at a gathering. Eventually, smoking anything, pipe, cigarette or cigar was banned from most public places, which was a blessing. Just before such a universal ban took place however, I endured the cigar smoke from the Mayor of our small town of Madison. I served two terms on the Town Board, as the first woman elected to that spot, and during that time one Mayor was an inveterate cigar smoker, and would light up during our meetings.
I had learned years before that, however, that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A few days before the next Board meeting was scheduled, I began cigar hunting. I narrowed my choice to an expensive, exclusive model that came in its own glass tube. The die was cast. I carried it in my purse to the meeting. My plan was to wait until the major business had been decided, and while lesser issues were discussed, I would proceed with my nefarious plan.
And it came to pass that I found the moment, pulled the glass tube from my purse, extracted the cigar, brought out my book of wooden matches (for greater effect), put the cigar in my mouth, licking it a bit as I had seen my father do, struck the match and lit up, with little smoke clouds issuing from the weapon. During this entire process, I could sense without looking around, that suspense was building. While one of the members droned on with some minor business, I took a puff, blew out the smoke, and then another puff. I eventually smoked the entire cigar right down to the last inch while taking surreptitious glances at reactions from my colleagues.
Fortunately, the experience was a good one. Good humor ran throughout the meeting room, from those at the table with me to the townspeople in the observers’ seats. I had been a hit, and my point about noxious cigars was made, even though it did not change the practice by the Mayor at subsequent meetings, who continued to smoke his way through one of his stogies.It was later that I learned my action had made the news, not only in our local newspaper, but was picked up by other papers across the state. My brother at the time was with the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, and had read about me in the Madison Messenger. I have an idea he was the cause of the story traveling to other localities in North Carolina, but he never owned up to passing the story around.