This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, May 7, 1995
As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I could smell the cigar. You can smell a cigar 50 feet away. It takes only one to permeate the atmosphere of a restaurant, so that everything you eat tastes a little like a cigar -- cigar salad, cigar steak, cigar cheesecake.
Some people like the smell of cigars. Some people don't. But nobody can avoid it. If just one person decides to fire up a cigar indoors, everybody has to smell it, and basically nothing else. What kind of person, in the late 20th Century, inflicts himself on others this way?
The answer is: a rude person. It's the same kind of rudeness you find in the people who talk during movies. Or the people who crank up their absurdly powerful car stereos loud enough to deafen everyone around them. Or the macho see-what-a- badass-I-am motorcycle dudes who endlessly rev their muffler- free engines, proud of the noise they're making, as if this were impressive evidence of their masculinity, as opposed to just stupid. Or the people who hold their cigarettes away from the people at their table, so the smoke wafts directly onto people at other tables. Or the people at sporting events who constantly stand up, blocking the view of everybody behind them. Or the people who cut in line, because they're in a hurry, and the hell with you.
Lighting up a cigar indoors, in a public place, without making sure it's OK with everybody else, is that kind of rude. It doesn't matter if the restaurant allows it; a polite person doesn't do it.
The restaurant maitre d' led me to the bar to wait for the two guys I was meeting. The cigar-smoker was also waiting at the bar. He recognized me and struck up a conversation. He was friendly; rude people can be friendly. I wanted to say something about his cigar, but I didn't. I almost never say anything to rude people, because I am by nature a nonconfrontational person, or maybe just a coward.
The cigar-smoker's friends, two couples, arrived, and they talked some more at the bar. The cigar smoker did most of the talking. He talked about cigars -- how much he liked them, how he converted his wife to smoking them, how they were getting popular again. He called over to me.
"Hey," he said. "Why don't you write a column about smoking cigars?"
"You don't want to know what I think about smoking cigars," I said.
He laughed, as if I were making a joke.
He went off to his table; I went off to mine. I ate a meal that probably would have been good if it hadn't tasted like his cigar. Driving home, I decided to write a column after all.
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