Cigars, Etiquette

The Cigar Contract

ContractsImageA contract is, by definition, a binding agreement between two or more parties.  A contract should never be one-sided.  Both sides have obligations and expectations.  So, if the contract is a rental agreement, I am obligated to pay rent.  In exchange for that, I expect to have full and exclusive access to an apartment.  As long as both parties keep their end of the bargain, then everyone will be happy.  Before entering into that contract, I made certain decisions, based on my wants and needs… as well as my budget.  When looking for my current apartment, I knew the neighbourhood I wanted to live in; I knew I wanted two bedrooms (one would be an office), a patio on which I could enjoy a cigar without being harassed, a parking spot, and a shower with good water pressure.  Based on my budget, I knew was I wanted to pay.  I was happy because I got what I was looking for; my landlord was happy because they receive their rent on time (and a quiet tenant who respects the property).

Lighting a cigar should be no different.

THE CIGAR CONTRACT

The cigar:

I, Montecristo #2, do hereby promise to provide a positive and pleasurable smoking experience to the smoker.  I will, to the best of my abilities, provide a taste that is dark and peppery.  I will burn true and straight (within reason, as I am an entirely natural product).  I will not go out unless neglected for over 45 seconds.  I will change flavour profiles twice – once after the first third, and once after the second third.  I will provide this experience for the reasonable time frame one would expect from a 6 1/8” by 52 gauge figuerado (a.k.a. Torpedo shaped) cigar, which should be about one hour or so.

The smoker:

I, Mitch Garvis, do hereby promise to enjoy the provided cigar to the best of my ability.  I will treat the cigar with respect by cutting it delicately but firmly, without taking off too much or too little in the process.  I will light the cigar with care, lighting only the tip and paying heed to not singe the wrapper leaf.  Once lit, I will not obsess about minor inconsistencies in the burn, and will endeavour to only touch up the cigar when the inconsistency is beyond an acceptable level.  I will not neglect the cigar, and will try to puff from it at reasonable intervals so as to not let it go out, nor to let it burn too hot.  I will smoke the cigar for the duration reasonable for the size and shape of same, without pause which might force the cigar to go out, or until I am no longer able to comfortably hold the cigar in my fingers. When I am finished with the cigar (which will only be considered acceptable once the cigar has faithfully discharged its duties to completion) I shall not do damage to the cigar, but will set it down in a respectable position, and let its embers die out with dignity.  If I am in a place where I must immediately vacate the smoking premises, and where disposing of the remainders of the cigar might be a fire hazard (i.e.: A trash receptacle that may contain papers or dried leaves) I may, to ensure the safety of all persons and properties, douse the cigar in water.

Duration:

This contract shall be in effect for a period of time ranging from fifty (50) minutes to eighty (80) minutes, which will depend on factors beyond the control of either party (weather, humidity levels, etc…)

Why is it that all of this would need to be said?  Simply put, too many people choose the wrong cigars for the occasion.  If I know I am on a lunch break, and I have forty-five minutes to smoke a cigar, I should not take a Churchill that will last 90 minutes.  On the other hand, if I take a Half Corona I should not expect it to last an hour.  Pick a cigar that will fit your time slot.  Does that mean that if you know you have three hours to smoke you need to select a three hour cigar?  Of course not.  Most people will not even have such a beast in their humidor.  You can fill that time comfortably with two appropriate cigars… say, two 90 minute cigars.

So the first question people ask when I explain this philosophy is this: How do I know how long a cigar will last?  The simple answer to that is experience.  Yes, until you have smoked myriad cigars, you will not know how long every cigar might last.  However, if you have five different vitolas in your humidor, you might know after the first or second of each how long they will last.

The next question is this: What happens if I am not enjoying the cigar? Do I have to smoke it anyways? Unfortunately this happens often enough.  In that case, the cigar is not fulfilling its contractual obligations.  This may be through no fault of its own – you might be trying a vitola for the first time and realize it is not to your liking.  No fault, but as the cigar wants you to enjoy it, and if you cannot, then it will free you of your obligations.

And then of course we have the last question: I thought I had ninety minutes to smoke.  After forty-five minutes I was called to deal with an issue.  Or I was in a public space I was asked to extinguish it.  What do I do?  Cigars are very understanding that life happens.  Offer the cigar a silent apology, and it will forgive you for breaking your side of the bargain.

One of the most iconic cigar smokers of the twentieth century was Winston Churchill.  Having read many books about (and by) him, I have come across several stories that pertained to him and cigars.  It is said that he would leave cigars all over the place, and rather than going back to it, he would light another.  While Mr. Churchill was often, strictly speaking, in contempt of the Cigar Contract, I am sure his cigars understood that he was preoccupied with saving the world, first by defeating Hitler, and then by opposing communism.  However, there is a great anecdote that redeems the cigars.  When they were forgotten, a member of his staff would collect the half-smoked cigars, and would chop them up and use the tobacco in his pipe.  Even though the contract was broken, the cigar was able to complete its mission (to give pleasure and enjoyment) in its reincarnated form.

This story illustrates that there is a very real difference between cigar smokers who smoke out of need, and those who smoke out of desire.  It is what I refer to as the habit versus the hobby.  As an example, I may smoke two or three cigars in a day… and when on vacation many more than that.  However there will also be days when I do not smoke at all.  Do I miss them on those days?  If I think of it I may miss the relaxation and enjoyment, but there is never a physical need to smoke.  I am not and never have been addicted to tobacco.  Do I know people of whom this is untrue?  I do… but they all inhale cigar smoke, which I never have.  Those who need cigars are likely not entering into a contract; rather, they are getting a quick fix – using the cigar and discarding it, like so many comparisons we can make of the human condition.  How does the cigar feel?  Have you ever been used?  Do you remember that sinking feeling you had when you found it out?  That is how it feels.  Cigars have a soul… and to ignore that is to miss the point of cigars.

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